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Bells and Cannons - An Independence Day Celebration 
BOSTON – Members of the 101st Field Artillery enlist the aid of civilians to “tune the cannons” in preparation for the night’s performance of the “1812 Overture” with the Boston Pops, as part of Boston’s annual 4th of July celebration, held at the Hatch Shell, here.
Story and Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Alfred Tripolone III, Massachusetts National Guard Public Affairs 

BOSTON More than 160 Guardsmen aided local and federal authorities ensuring a safe and secure Independence Day celebration at the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, held at the Esplanade Hatch Shell, along the Charles River, here, July 4, 2011. The Soldiers came together from many specialized units to build a security team, capable of efficiently maintaining both low and high profile security tasks as well as directly supporting the Boston Pops, with live cannon fire by the 101st field Artillery, during the “1812 Overture”.

The units involved ranged in specialty from engineers of varied disciplines to a unit specifically tasked and trained to deal with chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear threats and disasters. The Guard provided support to local authorities wherever needed to maintain security.

“We have more than 160 Soldiers on the ground, here,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Lola Curley, the Command Sergeant Major of the 79th Troop Command out of Rehoboth, Mass., the task force running National Guard operations for the 4th. “That doesn’t include Guardsmen supporting 4th of July missions, elsewhere.” The National Guard supported five additional missions on the 4th by aiding towns with vehicles, marching in parades, the 215th Army Band playing patriotic music, static displays and howitzer salutes.

The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, now in its 38th year, draws more than half a million spectators from around the world, to Boston, to celebrate Independence Day. The event is also broadcast on national television and viewed by more than 7 million people nation-wide.

“This will probably be the largest event yet,” said Curley. “So, we will have more (National) Guard interaction with the public than ever before.”

“We will have Soldiers doing everything from foot patrols to keeping civilians safe and at bay,” Curley said. “We link Soldiers up with the State Police and make sure everything is covered.”

Spc. Emerla Marc, a Soldier with FSC 101st Engineer Battalion was given the task of regulating traffic flow across one of the many footbridge paths along the Charles River.

“Our mission today is to provide security for the people here seeing fireworks,” said Marc. “We split up in order to cover all of the bridges that usually get over-crowded.”

Getting to take part in the nation’s largest 4th of July celebration is bittersweet for some. Soldiers take time away from their families to help others, but in the end a job well done can be its own reward.

“I would have been on the grill at home,” said Marc. “It would have been a family cookout.”

Guardsmen know that the safety of every citizen of the commonwealth is their personal duty.

“It’s my first time here,” said Marc. “I live close by, maybe 10 minutes away, but I’ve never come down. I didn’t know how big it was.”

At the end of the day the Guardsmen knew their tasks were essential to safety and appreciated by the public as well as local authorities.

“I believe we’re helping out,” said Marc. “It’s a privilege and I’m proud to be able to serve, and help all these people celebrate Independence Day.”