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Reflection and celebration for our independence

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Noah Tancer
  • 378th Air Expeditionary Wing

The 378th Air Expeditionary Wing held an Independence Day vigil and carnival celebration at Prince Sultan Air Base, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, July 4, 2022.

The vigil began with the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and followed with non-denominational specific prayer from each of the wing chaplains followed by a diverse group of Airmen and Soldiers who led Jewish, Christian and Islamic prayer.

“You may be asking yourself why today on Independence Day is our event starting with a vigil,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jessica McWain, the command chief of the 378th AEW. “We as a nation in order to heal, prior to our celebration, must first acknowledge the grief and pain inflicted on minorities that was allowed to pass as nearly invisible to the majority for generations.”

During her speech McWain brought to light that even at PSAB you won’t see some fellow Americans at our independence day celebration. They have willingly left their families to risk their lives for their nation and the causes of freedom and democracy. Yet they don’t see themselves in our self-declared freedom and independence, as it is a celebration almost one hundred years older than theirs, Independence Day 1776 vs. Juneteenth 1865.

“When we acknowledge these ugly truths with open eyes and open hearts we can then move our nation back to the guiding light that is the idea of America and freedoms,” said McWain. “Those truths that we hold to be self-evident that all are created equal, endowed with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

A group of Airmen and Soldiers took turns reading excerpts from the “Declaration of Independence” and a choir sang “My Country, 'Tis of Thee.” Both reiterated to the crowd the intentions of our forefathers and the original values America was built upon.

“It is just as important to reflect on how to keep improving as a nation as it is to celebrate our origins, said Brig. Gen. William Betts, commander of the 378th AEW. “Yes we failed to heed our own directives but don’t fault the Declaration of Independence, I still believe in the American dream and I believe to the very core of my being that there is nothing wrong in America that can’t be fixed by what is right in America.”

Referencing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s, July 4, 1965, “The American Dream” speech and mixing in his own military experience, Betts reiterated his goal for PSAB to become the pinnacle example of diversity and inclusion in AFCENT’s area of responsibility.

“The American dream can be an example to the world but the reality of the military is an example to American society,” said Betts. “You may not recognize it now but you here at PSAB, you here in the military, already experience a unity that few others can comprehend. You are a microcosm of what is right with America. Use it to keep the founding fathers' plan on track and to realize Dr. King's American dream.”

The vigil then finished with the gathered crowd singing “God Bless America” together before dispersing to celebrate the holiday and partake in PSAB’s Fourth of July Carnival.