The annual Conch Republic Independence Celebration commemorates the day the republic seceded from the United States to form a fifth-world nation recognized by international public law as “a sovereign state of mind.” The birth of the island nation, whose motto is We Seceded Where Others Failed, was prompted by a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint set up at the head of the Florida Keys so that agents could search cars for drugs and illegal aliens that virtually halted traffic on the only road into and out of the Florida Keys, angering residents and visitors alike. Realizing that the Keys were being treated as a foreign country, local officials protested by seceding and then . In the media frenzy that followed, the Border Patrol checkpoint was quietly removed — but not before the Conch Republic had captured the popular imagination.
Each year, the Conch Republic celebrates in style. Festival highlights include the “World’s Longest Parade,” so named because it begins at the Atlantic Ocean and proceeds to the Gulf of Mexico and the Bloody Battle for the Conch Republic. The good-spirited battle pits the Conch Republic Air Force and Navy against the reviled federal forces, with weapons ranging from toilet paper bombs, water cannons, sponges to flying Cuban bread and vegetables.
This year, we had about a dozen aircraft representing the Conch Republic Air Force and despite the Coast Guard not being able to participate due to budget sequestering, we had bombs away on “insurgents” in the harbor. Once again, for the 31st year, we were victorious when our government enemies surrendered. After the battle, I went to say hello to Fred, our late General. I dropped him his own challenge coin and saved a couple bombs for him, too. He will always be remembered as the leader and integral part of the Conch Republic Air Force as well as my compatriot, mentor, friend, and inspiration.