Fourth of July safety from 2nd AF commander

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- I'll be honest with you, the Fourth of July weekend is not one of my favorite times of the year. I guess it goes back to when I was a child and I had some painful experiences on that weekend. I remember one Independence Day when my brother and I were out playing croquet and he hit me in the head with the mallet. Now he claimed I was standing too close to him and I claimed he swung the mallet like a baseball bat. Regardless, I ended up with five stitches and a scar on my forehead. Yes, that was painful but I quickly learned that if I was going to play any sports with my brother, I needed to apply risk management and stand way back!

Then there was the Independence Day my brother (yes, the same one) pulled my braces off during a pillow fight. It was one of those freak accidents. The pillow case had a loose thread that got wrapped in my braces when he hit me in the face (and yes my mouth was open because I was laughing). Anyway, the entire upper row of my braces came right off (and no, I am not making this up). It was painful a experience, especially telling my father how it happened and having him cut the dangling braces off with a pair of needle nose pliers.

Then there was the holiday when I decided to see how many Black Cat fire crackers I could stuff in a soda bottle in order to make it blow up. At any rate, it didn't take but one fire cracker to blow that bottle to smithereens, and luckily, I didn't cut anyone up but myself. My father, to say the least, threatened me with serious corporal punishment if I ever did that again and confiscated the rest of my fireworks.

So as you can see, I have had some memorable Independence Day happenings as a kid and didn't use the best judgment. But hey, I was a kid! Well, none of us have that excuse anymore. We are all adults and role models, and folks look to us to set the example in many areas, especially in safety.

This year's Memorial Day Weekend made history with no fatalities and I know we can repeat that accomplishment as we approach the second major holiday in the "101 Critical Days of Summer" campaign.

Independence Day is a time to celebrate our freedom and remember those that have fought for that freedom. During this four-day weekend, many of us will travel to visit family and friends and celebrate with lots of food and beverages. As we celebrate, let's remember to keep a focus on safety. Providing information to all Air Force employees and doing whatever it takes to prevent mishaps should be the guiding principal this holiday.

History has taught that we are exposed to increased mishap potential due to summer-related activities. People will head out on our nation's highways to vacation spots, parks, beaches or other recreational areas. Alcohol consumption may also increase during this period which may contribute to uncharacteristic risk-taking by normally prudent and mature people. Don't take those risks!

I urge all of you to discuss your safety concerns so this Fourth of July weekend and the remainder of our "101 Critical Days of Summer" can be the safest ever. Let's make sure we demonstrate that being prepared, planning ahead and proper risk management are vital parts of all summer activities. Take that extra moment or two to talk about increased risks, applying sound risk management, weighing the risks versus benefits, and take action to mitigate or eliminate threats.

Have fun this Fourth of July, but think before you act. Watch your kids with those fireworks! Hopefully none of them will be as troublesome as I was at that age!