Stratton: Enjoy family during Memorial Day, stay safe Published May 21, 2020 By Col Anthony Stratton 176th Wing JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Please take advantage of the long weekend, spend time with friends and family, and renew. A few thoughts below: 1. Once again, Memorial Day and a fast-paced summer is upon us. What makes the coming holiday and summer season noteworthy is the amount of time we have spent cooped up adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols. If you are like me you are chomping at the bit to get out and get after all the opportunities out great state offers. Whether is a hobby or a passion, I say “Git’er done!”…but do it smartly and safely. Take the time to thoroughly think about all your activity entails and take the necessary precautions to reduce risk and protect yourselves, family, friends, and those around you. 2. As an organization we have a good safety record, on and off duty. With that said, accidents do happen. Within the last year, we lost a Soldier and an Airman to drowning mishaps. If you are going to be on or near the water, assess the situation, prepare accordingly, and wear a lifejacket. 3. For those of you whose plans include driving, factor in extra travel time, make sure you’re rested and sober, and keep calm. The likelihood of an accident increases when people are tired and in a hurry. Also, being out and about in Alaska means firearms. Whether you’re packing for safety or shooting for fun, take the appropriate precautions to keep yourself and others safe. 4. Use alcohol responsibly, do not make it a focal point of your chosen activity. While responsible consumption can make for a relaxing, enjoyable event, excess and abuse can, and has led to some very tragic outcomes. Remember, there is no safe combination of alcohol, driving, or firearms. 5. The unique circumstances of social distancing and isolation imposed by COVID-19 was a great opportunity to slow down a little, reconnect with family, and reflect on what’s important. However, conditions amplified the feelings of isolation for those without close family or friends; a primary catalyst suicidal thought or actions. During this time of opening back up and returning to the business of living life, please remember to include the people you know who might not have strong relational ties or the means to get out and enjoy something as ordinary as a BBQ with friends. The simple act of reaching out and connecting does more to bring a sense of belonging than all the talk about caring ever will. 6. In closing…embrace common sense, enjoy the moment, and be safe. I look forward to seeing you out and about.