On July 4, 1776, 56 members of the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, signaling the colonies’ freedom from Britain and giving birth to a new Nation, one whose 237th birthday we now celebrate.
The U.S. Army and the Corps of Engineers are actually one year older than our country, and I have often reflected on the fact that in many ways, the history of the Corps is the history of our Nation. Army Engineers were responsible for mapping the vast western territories, building our first roads and bridges, fortifying our coastline, opening up rivers and harbors for commerce, and constructing iconic American landmarks such as the Washington Monument, the Capitol Dome and the Lincoln Memorial.
One of our most vital and well-known missions is providing recreational opportunities at more than 400 USACE projects nationwide. Did you know that we have 370 million visits annually to our lakes, beaches and other recreational sites? This weekend and all summer, millions of visitors will flock to these sites for boating, fishing, camping, hunting and hiking, and our USACE park rangers and recreation managers will be hard at work ensuring that our guests are enjoying our sites responsibly and safely. If you and your family will be taking part in these activities over the holiday, I urge you to take a moment to review some water safety tips at: http://watersafety.usace.army.mil/
Nearly 90 percent of water-related fatalities involve those not wearing a life jacket. In 2012, USACE launched an initiative to decrease the number of public recreation fatalities by 50% by the end of FY14. Using the total of 197 fatalities from FY11 as the baseline, in FY12, we recorded 157 fatalities, which is a 20% reduction. I commend you for making good progress towards our goal, but there is more we can ALL do.
So far in FY13 we have recorded approximately 60 fatalities. None of the victims this year were wearing a life jacket. For a power testimonial on this subject, view “Lost on the Lake,” produced by the USACE National Operations Center for Water Safety: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBhrMdGoZ3g
Whatever your plans for the 4th of July holiday may be, I hope you will enjoy a day spent safely in the company of family and friends, celebrating the great heritage of our Nation. During this special time of the year we should remember those deployed Soldiers and Civilians in harm’s way and give thanks for the many men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may celebrate our freedom and independence every day.
Essayons…Building Strong…Army Strong!
Thomas P. Bostick
Lieutenant General, US Army