Hinesville residents may have thought Fort Stewart was experiencing a localized thunderstorm Tuesday evening, but the incessant booming was really a “Salute to the Nation.”
Soldiers with A Battery, 1st Battalion, 76th Field Artillery, manned six 75mm Pack Howitzers and fired a round for each of the 50 U.S. states and eight U.S. territories.
The ceremony began with patriotic music performed by the 3rd Infantry Division Band, and a powerful rendering of the “Star Spangled Banner” by Sgt. 1st Class Jody Manford, 3rd ID Band.
Before the cannon salute and flag narration by ceremonies coordinator Jeff Fornshell, Maj. Gen. Robert “Abe” Abrams, commander of the 3rd ID and Stewart-Hunter, summarized the nation’s history.
He emphasized that history was written with the sacrifices by the men and women who’ve served in her armed forces during war and peacetime. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have given their lives defending the freedoms Americans enjoy as they celebrate our nation’s birthday, he said.
“Our Army did not exist to support some dictator or to oppress the people,” he said, noting that the U.S. Army was established more than a year before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. “(Our Army) exists to assist and protect the people. We were there (in past wars), and we are there now to protect freedom.”
The commander addressed several hundred soldiers, family members and special guests, including WTOC vice-president and civilian aid to the Secretary of the Army Bill Cathcart and Brooke Childers, representative for U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston. Abrams reminded them that independence was not guaranteed when 13 colonies broke from Great Britain.
Abrams quoted President Ronald Reagan: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” then said the events on Sept. 11, 2001, were a wake-up call to all Americans.
“Men and women today stop our soldiers on the street and thank them for their service,” he said. “That 99 percent of the (U.S.) population knows that 1 percent protects them. I thank all active duty soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, and I thank our veterans for their service. Today’s all-volunteer military is a symbol of this country. Let us all celebrate what makes us uniquely American, and always remember our country and our freedom are worth fighting for.”
As he concluded, members of 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s 1/76th FA marched onto the field, taking positions by their guns. Fornshell listed the states according to when they were admitted into the union. As he named a state, a cannon fired in salute.
The firing continued from Delaware to Hawaii then each territory: Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Midway Islands, Wake Island and the District of Columbia.