FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — On Jan. 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, mandating the abolishment of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Gen. Gordon Granger published General Order No. 3, which stated all slaves in Texas were free, in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation.

On June 19, we commemorate Juneteenth National Independence Day and the ending of slavery in the United States. This year’s theme, “Opportunity Freedom Celebrated,” was inspired by historian Lonnie G. Bunch III, who stated Juneteenth is, “an opportunity to both look back and look ahead. To make sure the notion of freedom and the fragility of it is always protected and celebrated.”

We encourage you to reflect upon the significance of this day in our country’s history and upon our service members, who have fought to ensure freedom. To read more on the history and significance of Juneteenth, visit the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute website.

Leaders, prior to the holiday, check in with your teammates: know their plans, be available and remain connected. Talk to those in your care about risks, mitigations and safe practices, including being there for one another and including, but not limited to, all items below.

Check the weather, plan for emergencies and adjust as conditions change. Be cognizant of exertion level while outside in high-heat conditions. Have a plan to remain hydrated and cool to minimize the risk of environmental injuries. Never leave anyone unattended in a car during high-heat conditions. Be prepared for severe weather and never cross roads with flowing water.

Know which teammates operate all-terrain and utility vehicles, motorcycles and watercraft; talk with them about required training, licensing and certification completion for the safe use of those vehicles. Every teammate should wear protective equipment, including safety belts, life jackets and helmets. Every teammate – and those in their care – should follow all laws, including traffic rules and adherence to speed limits. Never operate any vehicle while distracted, drowsy or under the influence.

Alcohol increases risk in every activity. Talk to your formations and explain that those who choose to drink should do so responsibly and should have a plan for transportation. For those who own firearms, ensure storage either in a safe or a locked case or with a trigger lock engaged. No one should ever handle a weapon after or while consuming alcohol.

We are proud to serve with you and want you to observe Juneteenth safely.

Victory Starts Here – Victory Through Skill!