On Tuesday, August 4, the American Eagle Foundation of Tennessee released two 13-week-old bald eaglets in honor of the service members slain last month by a gunman at the Naval Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center in Chattanooga, Tenn.
For the past six weeks, these eaglets have resided in the American Eagle Foundation’s artificial nesting tower overlooking Douglas Lake in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. They have been cared for with minimum human contact while growing to full size.
The first eaglet to take flight was rescued from a nest in the Medina, Ohio area and was brought to the American Eagle Foundation to be released. The second eaglet was produced and hatched by, “Peace” and “Faithful,” one of the organization’s non-releasable bald eagle breeding pairs, and took its first flight just a few minutes afterward.
The American Eagle Foundation named the eaglet from Ohio “Semper Fortis,” which means “Always Strong” and is the unofficial motto of the U.S. Navy. The eaglet hatched at the American Eagle Foundation center was named “Semper Fi,” which is the official motto of the U.S. Marine Corps and means “Always Faithful.”
Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez shot and killed four marines and one sailor at the Navy Operational Support Center and Marine Corps Reserve Center in Chattanooga, Tenn. on July 16, 2015. Killed were Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson Holmquist, and Lance Cpl. Squire Wells of the U.S. Marine Corp. and U.S. Navy Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Randall Smith.
“As Americans, we must all find fitting ways to honor our fallen military men and women and to bless their families,” said American Eagle Foundation President Al Cecere. “Releasing these two eaglets is our special way of paying tribute to these five men who have loyally and courageously served our nation.”
Since 1992, the American Eagle Foundation has released 143 bald eaglets into the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Since 1980, nearly 400 have been released statewide in an effort to bring bald eagles back to America’s lands, waterways and skies.
The American Eagle Foundation is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization headquartered at the Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., whose mission is to care for, restore and protect the USA’s living symbol of freedom, the bald eagle, and other birds of prey. The American Eagle Foundation is celebrating its 30th year of carrying out its mission through Education, Repopulation, Conservation & Rehabilitation.
Photo Credit: Semper Fi, one of the bald eagles released by the American Eagle Foundation in honor of the service men killed last month in Chattanooga, flies from the AEF artificial nesting tower overlooking Douglas Lake. – John Douglas Prickett/American Eagle Foundation