The bald eagle is one of this country's most iconic symbols and on this Fourth of July, a local organization released two back into the wild.

The American Eagle Foundation helps rescue and rehabilitate the once endangered birds to help increase the population.

For the last five weeks, the two bald eaglets have sat perched in a hack tower high above Douglas Lake. They were born to a disabled bald eagle breeding pair that reside in the eagle sanctuary at Dollywood.

"They get to lay eggs and hatch young every year and all of our young get to fly free," said A.E.F. president Al Cecere.

The eaglets are flying free in honor of three military servicemen. One of them is Paralympic Skiing Silver Medalist Heath Calhoun, who's also a wounded warrior from the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Ky. Calhoun lost both his legs in Iraq.

"The eagle is the symbol of our country and I think it's pretty amazing to get to see an eagle is not something we all get to do and on the Fourth of July when it's so special to remember our country and its birthday is a really special feeling," said Calhoun.

Katie Connor and Kaylee Henry were also invited to the ceremony in honor of their fathers who both died while serving our country.

Henry helped name one of the birds Lady Talon, in honor of the Talon II aircraft her father flew. Calhoun named the other eagle Battle Force in honor of his battalion.

"It's really special," said Henry. "It's been a while since it happened so it's nice to know that people still care and want to honor what he did for our country."

"I always thought it was a special time to do it because these birds symbolize the freedoms and the independence that our country has been blessed to experience for so many generations now," said Cecere.

For those like Mr. Lincoln who aren't able to fly free, the A.E.F. uses them for educational purposes.

When the cage finally opened, Lady Talon and Battle Force didn't waste any time spreading their wings and flying into their own freedom.

The hope is when it comes time for these eaglets to make a nest of their own that they will return to the area and help continue to grow the eagle population in East Tennessee.

Since its creation the A.E.F. has released nearly 350 bald eaglets across the state.


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