Highland Games in the Desert'
April 30, 2009
AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq - Lone star State Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 142nd Infantry Regiment (Task Force Avalanche), caused vehicle and pedestrian traffic jams here during their much anticipated Tartan Day festival, April 6.
Onlookers converged from all directions in response to post-wide rumors of men wearing dresses - Soldiers of Scottish descent wearing kilts and conducting the Highland Games.
The games were a celebration of Scottish and Celtic heritage held throughout the year in Scotland and descendent enclaves around the world.
Tartan Day marks the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath establishing Scotland's Independence.
Maj. Mike Wallace, master of ceremonies and 2nd Bn., 142nd Inf. Regt. battalion executive officer, ignited the Tartan Day idea and inspired Soldiers of Scottish descent to requisition their respective kilts. Tartan patterned kilts are distinct and correspond to a specific Clan (extended family) or military organization.
After a long day participating in heavy sports, flying objects, and surprisingly - no injuries, all gathered for a sunset sampling of Haggis with lamb hearts and onions, Iron Brew - a carbonated water drink tasting like bubble gum, butter shortbread, followed by a showing of Braveheart starring Mel Gibson as Sir William Wallace.
During weeks of preparation, Wallace and Staff Sgt. Jeff Hardin built the 80 pound, 16 foot long caber - it became 15 feet long after a practice flip broke its snout. On the morning of the event, Scotland's Lion Rampant replaced the Texas flag - an occasion seldom seen.
Texas Governor Rick Perry dispatched a proclamation to Task Force Avalanche. His message reads in part, "Texas has been deeply influenced by settlers of Scottish descent. Scottish surnames, such as Houston, Austin, Dallas, Crockett and Bowie - are literally all over the Texas map."
Lt. Col. Mark L. Burkett, 2nd Bn., 142nd Inf. Regt., battalion commander and career "roughneck" infantryman, had an indescribable look when his chain of command, Col. Samuel Bethel and Col. Lee Henry, showed up at the games and saw his staff warriors dressed in kilts.
Alba Gu Brath! (Scotland Forever).