Posts Tagged ‘Independence Day’

I celebrated my last Independence Day on active duty this year.  It feels a little weird to throw that out there like that, but for the last 20 plus years I have been privileged to wear the uniform of my country on the birthday of my country.  For the last 19 of those years my wife and I have celebrated our 1 July marriage anniversary in conjunction with the 4th, I think that mostly started because the 4th was the day I had off of work and we knew we could celebrate unabashedly without the need for getting up early the next day.

This year we celebrated in our retirement location, where the family has been settled in for almost two years now.  We did not do our last big blast at Bragg like we have done so many years in the past.  New town puts on a pretty good show, the fireworks were not bad, considering they put absolutely no thought in to where they launched them from, but once the crowd shifted their position and moved forward of the trees that were blocking them, it turned out to be a pretty good display.  I am pretty sure the planners will do a little better next year at sighting them or at least focusing the thousands of people who showed up better prior to their beginning.

At the end of the day though, they just were not Bragg’s fireworks and all the events that go on with the day.  There was no flag ceremony, no cannons firing off, no buzz that you can only find surrounded by your brothers and sisters in arms, and, as much as I may hate to give them credit for it, there were no Golden Knights dropping in for the official kick-off of the festivities.  Despite this, it was a great day out with the family in our new home.

It was the last time we will celebrate with our son as a minor, he will be of age next year and free to be on his own.  We will still have our little girl who loves to get decked out in the red, white and blue and show a level of patriotism that is becoming a rarity these days.  She is swiftly approaching her teen years so I will hold on to that for as long as I can and the red, white and blue are replaced by all black, attitude and hostility.

Next year I will celebrate as a Veteran.  Hopefully, I will still be as enthused as I have always been.  Some of the reason for moving the family out so early was to get them settled and make it as easy as possible for them before I retire and uproot their lives and just turn them upside down.  Another part of the reason was so that I could get used to my new surroundings and slowly wean myself off that machine that has kept us going for so many years.  Maybe, just maybe, make it a little easier when I am going through the withdrawal that happens to everyone who has spent so long in uniform.  I know there are going to be some rough spots as I move further away from the life I have lead for so long, but we made these moves with the idea of sanding down some of those rough edges before they can do any harm.

January 1st I put one life behind me and officially begin another.  I trade one roller coaster for another.  It is a little bittersweet this last year in uniform.  I am leaving at a time that is just as, if not more tumultuous than any other in the last decade plus.  Friends and comrades are still in and will continue to go in to harms way.  Children of those I have served with over the years have reached an age to pick up the mantle and continue the fight we have grown too tired to.

Next year my daughter will finally get the undivided attention of Dad for the first time in her life.  My son will be a man in the eyes of the law.  And, my wife and I will get to celebrate our anniversary on whichever day we choose, simply because we choose to, not because it may be a day off and Uncle Sugar has extended it to me in his benevolence.  I look forward to being a Mister again and seeing things through the eyes of a civilian, or as close to that as is possible knowing the sacrifices that go in to keeping our country and freedoms in tact, whether it seems like they may be or not.  Next year I truly get to be part of the audience rather than a member of the crew putting on the show.

Independence Day is amongst my favorite holidays.  I have always loved this holiday, It falls in the summer, it has FIREWORKS, and there has never been a July 4th event that I have ever been to that is not the definition of what America is.  Each and every event on the 4th is a living example of what it means to be an American.  They are inclusive events that people from all walks of life, beliefs, education level, and opinions take part in.  It is a feeling that you never find anywhere else for their holidays, especially national holidays.  I have been to enough places and witnessed enough events to say with absolute certainty that we live in the greatest nation on Earth.

My family and I will be attending the annual Fort Bragg July 4th event today.  Somewhere around 3:00 (1500 for those of military mindedness) we will park and grab our fold-up chairs and canopy (beer cooler too!) and find us a spot on the field to settle down and watch the show. There will be country music acts, three to my knowledge with at least one of them being a national act.  There will be over-priced kiddie rides with lines that are too long, as well as vendors and food.  Somewhere around 1700, the Army’s Golden Knight Parachute team will do a demonstration, land in the parade field.  Later as the day begins to get long and the sun finally starts to hang its weary head, the most impressive thing of the entire day begins, it is something I have looked forward to since the very first time I attended the event some 17 years ago.

The close out of the day is a two hour affair that starts with the flag ceremony.  This ceremony is not like any other I have ever seen before; not only does it begin with the uncasing of the National Colors, but it also includes naming of the Colors for each major command on Fort Bragg, as well as presentation of the state flag for each state in the Union and our protectorate territories.  As each state and the date of entry into the Union is called out, one the many Howitzers that is stationed on the filed fires.  After the flag ceremony is complete the fireworks show will begin.  I have never seen a show like is put on each year on Bragg.  Music plays as the fireworks burst in the air behind the posts enormous flag.  As it gets near the time for the finale, the 1812 Overture will begin with the Howitzers again doing their part by providing emphasis at the appropriate places in the song.  At the finale a full “Fire for Effect” is done as each cannon fires simultaneously, while quickly re-loading.  It was not something I truly appreciated until I was able to witness our mighty artillery providing steel down-range in combat.  It has a different feel for each and every person.

This is the same parade field that I wrote about back in March in reference to an event that was held there.  The event was two years in the making, but, as a result of the drama and exclusiveness provided by the then leadership of the group, it was a bitter failure.  The parade field, which tonight will hold thousands of people, rain or shine, barely held 500 people on that day in March.  The acidity and sought out negativity of the organizer(s) of the event never realized where they were going wrong during the planning and preparation of the event, and even after it was over still portrayed it as a landmark event and inflated the number of attendees well beyond the truth.  I know the group, I am a member of the local group that is based on the civilian side of things.  There are night and day differences between them, mostly because despite the nexus and reasoning behind the local group, they are inclusive and want nothing more than to be able to have some community feeling as a group that there are other people out there who think like they do.

The “military” group, back before the event happened in March benefited from the negative publicity the leader and leadership garnered.  They gained backing by some national groups who actually thought the individual was a good representative for the military community.  They were wrong and have since moved on.  This group however now has some new leadership. Leadership that wants the same thing as the local group, a sense of community and to provide a voice for folks who want to speak out.  I have hope for the new group leadership and I think they can make some great in roads into the military community, where the old leader(ship) provided nothing beneficial for those he supposedly represented.

As I stated earlier, one of the greatest reasons that I love Independence Day is the INCLUSIVENESS of the day.  Each and every person is an American.  Those folks that each and every day talk about our President as if he were not an American, well they are included in celebration too.  Those folks that think the Pledge of Allegiance has always contained the phrase “Under God” (it was changed in 1954 in response to the “Red Scare”, thank you Senator McCarthy and wish to evangelize the country despite the many belief systems that make up the individuals of this nation, well you are invited too.  Old and young, veteran and draft dodger, foreign born and U.S. born, pacifist or aggressor, theist or atheist, you are all invited to celebrate the Birth of our nation.  The greatest nation on Earth.  Remember to take a look around you today and tonight at all of the strangers around you and think of all the other events today that will have as many or more people gathered together, most of them strangers to each other.  They are gathered together as one diverse as they each are, one not knowing the other standing next to them.  That is what makes America great.