FORT JACKSON, SC -- For a few hours Saturday evening, thousands of Fort Jackson community members, along with our guests from Columbia and the Midlands, will be treated to a spectacular fireworks display as we celebrate our nation's birthday during our annual Torchlight Tattoo. As always, the intensive planning and execution that have gone into this event are as impressive as the show itself.

Torchlight Tattoo, which is one of the largest fireworks shows in the Midlands, requires the strength of two battalions and the support of practically every organization on Fort Jackson just to make the event happen. This powerful patriotic observance, which also features a concert by the 282nd Army Band and a Salute the Nation ceremony, draws a large crowd from Columbia and surrounding communities, all of which adds to the challenges in planning and execution.

To understand what I mean, imagine the massive flow of traffic coming on and leaving post, and add to that the Soldiers who will need to get to and from Hilton Field. Just maintaining crowd flow and traffic control to and from the event presents huge challenges in themselves. The Soldier Support Institute once again has assumed the lead in coordinating this event and certainly is deserving of special recognition for spearheading this task and making the celebration once again possible.

I ask that all of you pause and think about your Army comrades in arms who are unable to join our Fourth of July celebration or other similar stateside events because they are engaged in protecting the many freedoms that make this all possible.

Sometimes we forget the fact that we remain a nation at war and that our way of life is under constant attack. Many of us at some point will be joining the fight in Iraq or Afghanistan, or wherever our nation needs us, to protect the freedoms and liberties that our enemies seek to destroy.

Let us never take our freedom for granted. Let us also not forget our history and the countless number of brave men and women who have gone before us - some of whom have paid the ultimate sacrifice - in preserving the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As Soldiers we take pride in the tremendous responsibilities placed upon us to serve and protect.

At a busy Basic Combat Training installation such as ours, in which days are long and the work is demanding, celebrations such as these also offer a break from our schedules and a chance to reflect. But a fireworks outing or a weekend barbecue get-together is not an excuse to ignore safety and behavior standards.

To that end, I am expecting you to practice good safety and exercise good judgment during the long holiday weekend. Safety should never take a back seat to summer fun. It is important that you keep your head in the game at all times and live your Army Values. You are not only a representative of this installation, but also of our Army, 24/7/365.

I am confident that you are aware of your responsibilities, and I am confident that you will uphold our high Army standards. Discipline equals safety. I am a firm believer of that if you practice good discipline, you are improving the odds of staying safe.

I expect no disappointments. Meanwhile, enjoy our annual marquee entertainment event, Torchlight Tattoo, a fun-filled evening of music and fireworks. As it has been for nearly three decades, Torchlight Tattoo promises to be a powerful patriotic observance and a sight to behold.

Enjoy it. Appreciate it. Happy Birthday, America! Fort Jackson salutes you!

Victory Starts Here! Army Strong!