Welcome to the Independence Day edition of Burner Friday, FighterSweep Fans! We wanted to send you into your holiday weekend with an image that embodies everything that is awesome about fighter aviation and America. There is so much history and significance in this particular image, brought to you courtesy of the Massachusetts Air National Guard.

Check this out: Red Flag, White Clouds (although not visible in this frame), Blue Sky, and the Mighty McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F-15C Eagle rocketing out of Nellis Air Force Base in full afterburner. This jet is currently assigned to the 131st Fighter Squadron, 104th Fighter Wing, based at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield. As we know, Massachusetts was a focal point in the early stages of the American Revolution, a heritage proudly reflected in the paint of 104 FW aircraft.

Even the Minuteman soul of the Air National Guard has its roots in America’s war to establish its independence from the British empire.

Modern-day Nellis is the focal point of weapons and tactics development and instruction in the Air Force, and the proclaimed “Home of the Fighter Pilot.” All of that, combined with the World’s Greatest Air Superiority Fighter departing in full AB with a couple of B-1B Lancers in the background…just how much more ‘Merica can you cram into one photo?!

Notably, this jet is also a MiG killer. On 26 January 1991, “CITGO 25,” piloted by Major Rhory “Hoser” Draeger, downed an Iraqi Air Force MiG-23 Flogger with an AIM-7M Sparrow radar-guided missile. His four-ship of F-15s from the 58 TFS was conducting an OCA (Offensive Counter Air) pre-strike sweep in western Iraq when four MiG-23s launched out of the H2 airfield. Three were shot down in textbook fashion, with the fourth returning to its base before it could be engaged. It was Draeger’s second air-to-air kill of the war.

So as you enjoy your holiday weekend, take a moment to reflect on the courage, sacrifice, and resolve of the men and women who gave their lives for our country, and those who still stand in her defense. Remember that freedom is not free, and many have paid a heavy, heavy price for us to enjoy the privilege of being an American.

Happy Independence Day!

(Featured photo by Scott Wolff)