Joint Base Andrews


Honor Guard celebrates Independence Day in Tennessee

By Senior Airman Delano Scott | 11th Wing Public Affairs | July 10, 2017


For 42 years, the city of Gatlinburg, Tenn., has kicked off Fourth of July with the first Independence Day Parade in the nation, stepping off at 12:01 a.m. As part of the year-long Air Force 70th anniversary celebration, the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard had the opportunity to take part in this tradition and showcase Air Force excellence to the public.  

“The goal is to always put on a phenomenal display of the U.S. Air Force in an effort to recruit and be a reminder to the public that Airmen are out there serving and protecting the nation,” said 1st Lt. Vincent Ramsey, U.S. Air Force honor guard flight commander of standardization and evaluation.

With a crowd of more than 120,000 people and a parade route stretching longer than a mile, putting on a display of precision and excellence requires preparation that began months in advance.

“We have a long list of possible movements and manuals that every Airman must know,” Ramsey said. “By taking the time to refine and perfect those movements, we can make sure that when the time to perform comes, that excellence becomes second nature.”

After completing their route, honor guard members had the opportunity to not only watch the various floats making their way through the streets, but to also speak with and interact with the crowd.

“By talking with people, I quickly learned that Gatlinburg means a lot to the people of Tennessee,” Ramsey said. “A few months ago, the city experienced a devastating forest fire. At the beginning of our parade route, there were trees that were still burnt. This city came face to face with destruction and survived. So being here as a military presence and being in the heart of the celebration with this town was a wonderful experience.”

Later in the day, the honor guard made their way to the Dollywood theme park to perform a flag raising ceremony in front of those in attendance.

“Coming from D.C. where there’s a large military presence, being in Gatlinburg is a reminder that not everyone is engulfed in the military lifestyle,” said Airman 1st Class Alexander Wood, U.S. Air Force ceremonial guardsman. “It’s important for us to reach these pockets of people and share with them our Air Force community. By doing so, we can invoke pride and confidence in the Air Force and all of our armed forces.”