Army sets a birthday bash at the Trop

Published June 12, 2007

The Army will celebrate its 232nd birthday Thursday, and it's throwing a party at Tropicana Field.

Before Wednesday's Devil Rays game against the San Diego Padres, more than 30 Tampa Bay area residents will be sworn in as soldiers. There will also be a rappelling demonstration, a color guard ceremony, cake cutting and a performance of the national anthem by a member of the University of Tampa ROTC.

Lt. Col. Dean Shultis - who has served in the Gulf War, in Afghanistan and again in Iraq - will throw the first pitch.

"We're trying to tell the Army's story, " Shultis said. "It's played a critical role in the formation of our nation."

He said the Tampa Bay area has been supportive and receptive to recruiting. He has little trouble meeting his area's goal of recruiting 2, 500 soldiers a year from West Central Florida.

Some Pinellas County enlistees said they're excited about being sworn in before thousands of baseball fans.

Sarah Baker, who lives in Clearwater, said she's looking forward to starting basic training, but she is nervous about leaving her mom, especially since her sister, who serves in the Navy, has been gone as well. Her mom will attend the game to see her sworn in.

"I think it's pretty cool, " said Baker, 17. "I know I can do it, but I'm just scared to leave my mom."

Brian MacWatters of New Port Richey said he decided to join the Army because he hopes it will give him direction. He thinks the Army will help identify his strengths and put them to good use.

"I'm probably one of the only people in my family to graduate from high school and do something with my life, " MacWatters, 17, said. "Everyone's pretty proud of me."

The ceremony begins before the Rays play at 7:10 p.m. at Tropicana Field.