The Military Appreciation Day, themed "Sounds of Freedom" was held Saturday, June 2 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Layton Commons Park to celebrate the local military's commitment to the defense of our nation and peacekeeping efforts around the globe. The proceeds from the event, hosted by Northern Wasatch Association of Realtors (NWAOR) and Layton City, allowed for a $10,000 contribution to the nonprofit foundation for local military emergency housing assistance. Sponsors plan to hold the Sounds of Freedom annually.
Perhaps fittingly, for an event neighboring an Air Force base, participants might expect to hear some fighter jet noise. Perhaps even more fittingly, for an event honoring active duty, reserve, retired military and their families, 388th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Scott Long was invited to be master of ceremonies. Having accepted such an invitation, Long was going to make some noise. He wanted to give the crowd the "Sounds of Freedom," and 12:13 p.m. seemed like the perfect time.
As the noon hour approached Long took to the stage with NWAOR Chairman of Public Relations L.T. Weese, Layton City Mayor Steve Curtis and some other distinguished guests.
Long opened his presentation by celebrating the "glorious day" with the crowd and thanking those among them who were part of over 200,000 people who, despite the rain and all the challenges presented, came out, saw the Air Force showcased and enjoyed the fun last weekend. He thanked the distinguished supporters of the 388th Fighter Wing beginning with Mayor Curtis, who he described as a phenomenal supporter, steadfast representative and demonstrative city leader.
"When our Airmen come home from deployments or there are changes in command in the 388th Fighter Wing Mayor Curtis is sitting right there each time and usually there's a tear in his eye. His words are few, but they mean a lot. So Mayor Curtis, the city of Layton and the surrounding community, the support that you provide our Airmen and our families, is second to none," said Long.
Long also introduced L.T. Weese and acknowledged the countless hours he spent putting the 'Sounds of Freedom' event together to support Team Hill. Rep. Curtis Oda and his wife Nancy were introduced and their contributions to the 388th FW were acknowledged, as was Rep. Brad Wilson and his family.
"When they come in from the southwest you'll get to hear what L.T.'s 'Sounds of Freedom' is all about," Long said assuredly. "That noise you'll hear represents the Airmen and the families of Team Hill and the Air Force across this globe. We're deployed everywhere. We're deployed overseas in Afghanistan. We're deployed even in Iraq today. We have all kinds of capability that we're providing combat commanders around the world. Our mission is very important: to keep this nation free. We don't take it lightly, and we cherish the opportunity."
Long concluded his message of thanks to the civic leaders and the community, "God bless America, God bless all of you out there today, and God bless this great nation that we have. Thank you very very much. I appreciate all of you."
The crowd fell silent while the National Anthem was sung and the Utah State University Honor Guard, Detachment 860 presented the colors. Members of the guard included Cadets 4th Class Elyse Hobbs, left rifle; Nathaniel Atwood, Utah flag; Dee Allen, American flag and Travis Smithey, right rifle.
There was an eerie silence in the still balmy sky for a moment that day as Long stood before the crowd saluting the flag. Suddenly, a perfectly timed, four-ship, F-16 Fighting Falcon flyover appeared out of the southwest sky at a 1,000-foot-level, in tight formation, led by 4th Fighter Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Tang Sabia.
Following the delivery of the 'Sounds of Freedom' message, the festivities at Layton Commons Park continued. Some folks meandered to the car show hosted by J.C. Hackett which had nearly 300 entries, while others enjoyed food booths, product demonstrations, games, musical entertainment, or simply sat in the shade awaiting the drawing for a Colt M4 semi-automatic rifle.
Nonetheless, Long's business was far from finished. He recognized LT Weese, NWAOR, for being the mastermind behind the event, and as he continued, he clarified the role Hill Air Force Base plays, "The message 'Sounds of Freedom' gives everybody a sense of what this is all about: keeping our nation free, keeping our nation strong," he said.
"President Reagan talked about being one generation away from tyranny and losing every bit of freedom we have. So, to me that's my job while I'm serving our country, just like those who came before us," said Long.
He reflected on the Memorial Day recently celebrated. He recognized all the people who came before us and gave the ultimate sacrifice so the community and base could have events like this one. "Some people take those freedoms for granted," said Long, "but it's the responsibility of those of us in uniform to continue to secure our freedom. As a matter of fact that song in the background by Toby Keith says it all," he said with a smile pointing toward the bandstand as they played 'Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue' for the community at that moment.
Long spoke about how important it is for servicemen and women to continue to act courageous and bold despite challenges and to always do the right thing. "It's so important for our service to understand what's required, because our nation is 16 trillion in debt and we've got trillions in unfunded liabilities. We're writing checks that we can't necessarily cash. We have enemies around the world that are rising to challenge us; and if we don't stay strong and fundamental to the core of what it is to be heroic, bold, strong and courageous - if we lose that, our country has no chance to be free and we just can't let that happen," said Long.
Long continued, "Our Airmen are out there deployed around the world. Our ops levels are very high and often times we don't say 'Thank you.' We also don't say 'Thank you,' to the families, the spouses and the kids, who bear the brunt of the service members' dedication to this nation. That's something I'd like to say to the people who put the uniform on every day and who keep everybody safe and able to sleep in peace at night.
"In tough budgetary times," Long said, "We don't always get enough money to do some things we'd like to." Long explained that when the community comes together and has an outpouring of support with events like "Sounds of Freedom" it really helps the financial support of the Airmen and their families, especially when Airmen are deployed. "This is all about community support," said Long, "how much we need it, how much we appreciate it and how much it allows the Team Hill community to remain strong."
Weese spoke about his hopes for the event, "Hill Air Force Base is critical to Northern Utah and to our country. Our goal with the 'Sounds of Freedom' event was to rally the community around our military to show them our appreciation for the sacrifices they make. Often times, people assume military families don't need help or that they're being taken care of. They need help just like everyone else, perhaps sometimes more. For those of us who call Northern Utah home, we are blessed to hear the 'Sounds of Freedom' overhead every single day. We should let that sound serve as a reminder for us to be more military friendly."
Layton City Mayor Steve Curtis spoke on military friendliness and families, "One thing I've learned serving for six years as Layton City's mayor and building relationships with our neighbors at Hill Air Force Base, it is that our military families make heart-wrenching sacrifices to keep our nation strong. If there's something we as a community can do to make their lives just a little bit easier, then we need to do that."
"For the wives and children of Hill Air Force Base who operate in harm's way, a willing burden or a possible traumatic experience can become a reality. This is where 'Sounds of Freedom' becomes a helpful asset. My support for this event is heartfelt and I sincerely desire to share a bit of care with those who willingly sacrifice Saturdays like today so that I can enjoy them. Operation kid comfort or pillow project are examples of how proceeds from today's event will be invested. Given what they're sacrificing, this event is tiny in comparison," said Curtis.
In the eyes of Curtis one could see the reflection of a quiet, but fortunate man. "I've been very privileged to be given the opportunity to be associated with Hill Air Force Base in the function that I have. I have grown and learned so much from these men and women. They have shown me what freedom is all about," said Curtis.
When asked to describe a hero, Curtis said, "Anyone who serves in a military capacity is a hero of mine because of their willingness to instantly step up to defend the freedoms we enjoy."
The event was also supported and sponsored by AIRFORCE.com and Rock-n-Roll Radio Car Show & Cruise Nights.