Keep safety in mind during 4th of July festivities

  • Published
  • By Maj. Gen. Mary Kay Hertog
  • 2nd Air Force commander
Editor's note: General Hertog turns over command of 2nd Air Force to Brig. Gen. Leonard Patrick, 9 a.m. July 21 on the parade field.  She's headed to the Pentagon to direct the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. General Patrick commands the 502nd Air Base Wing at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

As we get ready to celebrate Independence Day, let me just say "Thank You" for the difference you make every day, as member of the Armed Forces, a family member or as one of our Department of Defense civilians.

The Fourth of July marks the second major holiday in the "Critical Days of Summer," campaign. Normally, we take time this long weekend to celebrate with our families and friends, enjoy the summer weather and just relax. Many of you will travel to various locations across the country while others will spend their holidays deployed in defense of freedom or on duty at a critical duty station. Wherever and however you spend the holiday, I encourage you to continue making a difference, especially in the lives of those immediately around you.

Over the years, many of us have taken risks with our personal safety (and others) and done things that were just not smart. Be it speeding, riding a motorcycle without the right protective gear, drinking and driving, drinking and boating, throwing gasoline on charcoal to accelerate the grill, flying a private plane beyond its limits -- you name it, it's been done. Some were lucky to escape a mishap; others weren't as lucky. So far this year, 31 Air Force members, including seven in Air Education and Training Command and one in 2nd Air Force, have lost their lives in tragic mishaps. That's 31 deaths too many! These were all members of our Air Force family and these tragic and avoidable losses left behind hundreds of grieving family members. These are not statistics -- these were our team mates who were unique and can never be replaced, people we worked with or hung out with daily, who have left a hole that cannot be filled.

Our Air Force family and mission depend on each and every one of you, so as we commemorate our Nation's independence with fun-filled celebrations, let us be mindful that mishaps are preventable. Make a difference as a Wingman. I need each commander, supervisor, and Airman to get personally involved. Know the holiday travel plans of your Wingmen. Check each other and if travel plans don't pass the common sense test, adjust them. Apply personal risk management to all your planned activities. I want you and your fellow Airmen to return safely after the holiday.

And one other very important point. Suicide remains a formidable enemy for our Air Force. This calendar year alone 24 Air Force warriors have taken their lives, and we in 2nd Air Force have not gone unscathed -- three members took their lives while several others made attempts. Please watch for the signs of distress and stress and take action to help your fellow Airmen when needed.

Again, thank you for your service and for making a difference every day. Have a safe holiday!