Independence Day & Risk Management

115 FW,

Thank you all for your service, hard work, mission focus and the sacrifices you make to defend our freedom. Thank you to your families and friends as well, as they make sacrifices on a daily basis to support us. I am thankful for those who fought for our freedom, I am proud to serve in the US Armed Forces to continue to defend our freedom, I am thankful for your service to our nation and state, and I am honored to serve with you!

The first week of July is typically one of the busiest American travel periods of the year. During this celebration week, please slow down and make sure you, your family and friends are safe! Independence Day is the greatest American Holiday, celebrated by fireworks, outdoor activities, and family get togethers. This American holiday is part of the American fabric, and it’s about celebrating our independence and patriotism. It’s important to not misplace our enthusiasm and forget the risks that might be present during this weekend.

Fireworks: Fireworks are a big part of the celebration of Independence Day. No matter how fun they are and how awesome they are when they explode into the sky, fireworks often bring pain and sometimes death when not handled properly. Severe burns, blindness, and even death can be caused by the misuse of fireworks at 4th of July celebrations. Think about the hazards of such explosive devices, and the danger they present to you and your children.

Travel: The fact is, this iconic American holiday is also one of the deadliest holidays of the year due to drunk-driving crashes. According to data from NHTSA, during July 4th holiday period over the last five years (from 2008 to 2012), 765 people lost their lives in crashes involving drivers with a BAC of .08 or more. If you are going to consume alcohol have a plan before you leave home.

Risk Management: Remember to use your Personnel Risk Management (PRM) tools and enjoy the Independence Day festivities, but please return safely because our nation needs each one of us. Remember to keep safety and risk management at the forefront of your decision making tree. Concentrate on the task at hand and minimize distractions – especially while driving. Use alcohol in a responsible manner and always have a plan prior to a social gathering. Before beginning any task or activity: slow down, ask yourself what could possibly go wrong, have proper safety protection, and accomplish a risk management assessment. You are all extremely important 115 FW team members, and I want you all to be safe! You are our most valuable resource!

Finally, please take this opportunity to teach our younger generation and impress upon our communities the significance of Independence Day. I attached a few highlights of topics to think about during this holiday that we have the privilege of celebrating.

Independence Day:

During the American Revolution, the legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain occurred on July 2, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence, declaring the United States independent from Great Britain. After voting for independence, Congress turned its attention to the Declaration of Independence, which had been prepared by a Committee of Five, with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author. Congress debated and approved it on July 4. A day earlier, John Adams had written to his wife Abigail:

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

Interesting facts: Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence later to serve as Presidents of the United States, died on the same day: July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration. Although not a signer of the Declaration of Independence, but another Founding Father who became a President, James Monroe, died on July 4, 1831, thus becoming the third President in a row who died on the holiday.

Nathan Hale (June 6, 1755 – September 22, 1776): Nathan Hale was a soldier for the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He volunteered for an intelligence-gathering mission in New York City but was captured by the British and executed. He is probably best remembered for his purported last words before being hanged: “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” Hale has long been considered an American hero.

National Anthem of the United States of America: The Star-Spangled Banner

On September 3, 1814, following the Burning of Washington and the Raid on Alexandria, Francis Scott Key and John Stuart Skinner set sail from Baltimore aboard the ship HMS Minden, flying a flag of truce on a mission approved by President James Madison. Their objective was to secure the exchange of prisoners, one of whom was Dr. William Beanes, the elderly and popular town physician of Upper Marlboro and a friend of Key’s who had been captured in his home. Beanes was accused of aiding the arrest of British soldiers. Key and Skinner boarded the British flagship HMS Tonnant on September 7 and spoke with Major General Robert Ross and Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane over dinner while the two officers discussed war plans. At first, Ross and Cochrane refused to release Beanes, but relented after Key and Skinner showed them letters written by wounded British prisoners praising Beanes and other Americans for their kind treatment.

Because Key and Skinner had heard details of the plans for the attack on Baltimore, they were held captive until after the battle, first aboard HMS Surprise and later back on HMS Minden. After the bombardment, certain British gunboats attempted to slip past the fort and effect a landing in a cove to the west of it, but they were turned away by fire from nearby Fort Covington, the city’s last line of defense.

During the rainy night, Key had witnessed the bombardment and observed that the fort’s smaller “storm flag” continued to fly, but once the shell and Congreve rocket barrage had stopped, he would not know how the battle had turned out until dawn. On the morning of September 14, the storm flag had been lowered and the larger flag had been raised.

During the bombardment, HMS Erebus provided the “rockets’ red glare”. HMS Meteor provided at least some of the “bombs bursting in air”.

The 15-star, 15-stripe “Star-Spangled Banner” which inspired the poem.

Key was inspired by the American victory and the sight of the large American flag flying triumphantly above the fort. This flag, with fifteen stars and fifteen stripes, had been made by Mary Young Pickersgill together with other workers in her home on Baltimore’s Pratt Street. The flag later came to be known as the Star-Spangled Banner and is today on display in the National Museum of American History, a treasure of the Smithsonian Institution. It was restored in 1914 by Amelia Fowler, and again in 1998 as part of an ongoing conservation program.

Aboard the ship the next day, Key wrote a poem on the back of a letter he had kept in his pocket. At twilight on September 16, he and Skinner were released in Baltimore. He completed the poem at the Indian Queen Hotel, where he was staying, and titled it “Defence of Fort M’Henry”.

Happy Independence Day and BE SAFE!

Jeffrey J. Wiegand, Col, US Air Force

Commander, 115th Fighter Wing

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