Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

July 4, 2013

Scout Report: The Stars and Stripes forever

By Clinton Gill
Glade Sun editor

— Alright, I admit it. I've been slacking on my series explaining the history of the  Constitution. However, this happens to be the week of my favorite holiday and I would be remiss if I let it pass without commentary; so the Seventh Amendment will just have to wait.

Of all of the Independence Days that I've celebrated, one in particular stands out as particularly special. It is one that will remain with me always.

On the evening of July 3, 2006, I was traveling south of Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) on MSR (Main Supply Route) Tampa en route to Tallil Air Base, which is near Nasiriyah in southern Iraq. The trip from BIAP was one of our shortest routes, taking as little as eight hours if conditions were right. About halfway in between BIAP and Tallil was a camp called Scania that had been constructed in the middle of the MSR and served as a secure refueling depot.

That night we ran into a traffic jam just north of Scania. A convoy ahead of us had discovered an Improvised Explosive Devise (IED) in the road. An Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) unit had to be dispatched to dismantle the bomb before anyone could continue traveling south. That usually took several hours. In the mean time, we pulled security and waited as more convoys piled up behind us.

After about five hours I looked down at my watch and noticed it was after midnight –officially the Fourth of July – so I sent up a couple of flares to celebrate. The other trucks in my convoy followed suit. In sequence down the line other trucks in other convoys began sending up flares as well. There were trucks lined up for miles. For as far as you could see, brilliant balls of flame lit up the night sky. Some were parachute flares that hung about and took several minutes to drift down; others were star clusters that exploded in a variety of red, white and green flavors.

At one point, the trucks behind us sent up at least 10 flares in rapid succession that created a waterfall effect. It almost looked choreographed. I took out my iPod and began broadcasting "Stars and Stripes Forever" over the radio. In that brief moment, everything was perfect. I came to understand the true meaning of liberty and why this country is so special.

As you celebrate this great holiday, I hope you will reflect upon its meaning. As a nation, I believe we have lost sight of ourselves. Ronald Reagan once said, "You and I must protect and preserve freedom here or it will not be passed on to our children." I hope that you will take this opportunity to instill a sense of patriotism in the next generation by reading the Declaration of Independence at your celebrations, particularly if you have children or grandchildren. And of course, say a prayer for the guardians watching the flares.