A Capitol Fourth - America's Independence Day Celebration
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Patriotic Reflections

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Defending Freedom

Many of you wrote about your appreciation of the freedom that is allowed Americans and about your gratitude to those who risk or sacrifice their lives defending that freedom.  Thank you for allowing us to share some of your responses here.

From:  Cheryl Sepich, Michigan

Parades, red, white & blue, family picnics, fireworks...these are the memories of my childhood on July 4th. Now, as mother of two young boys, it's the same kinds of memories I want to give them on this day. But...it's deeper than that for me now. I feel such a great sense of pride and patriotism to be living in the United States. I feel that I owe such gratitude to the military personnel serving now or those that have served. Our country was built on noble ideals and was formed and protected by these men and women through the years. My respect and my pride goes out to all who have served or are serving in any capacity.

From:  Patti Koceja, WI

As a little girl, I remember the American flag hanging in the entryway of my grandparents' home in Pendleton, Indiana. And in the backyard my grandpa had an American flag atop a very tall flag pole which was lit every night at dusk. My mom would tell me how much the flag meant to grandpa. When he died in the early '70's, I was presented with the flag at his funeral. It is and always will be my most important possession. My grandfather meant the world to me as does the country I'm blessed to live in. Let us all show our pride in America and all those who have served our country that we may celebrate the 4th of July and our freedom.

From:  Ann Ogonowski

I am a career female Soldier in the United States Army. I do this because it is in my blood and because I love what George Washington, Americas' founding father and General of the Continental Army, did to create the United States of America. Independence Day is the day when America honors its birthday and the founder of our nation, as well as those who defended our freedoms. Whether or not one believes in war, patriotism, or the religious doctrines that defined this nation, it is important that all who live in America take a moment on this special day to respect Americas' founding father and Americas' birthday by giving thanks that today we enjoy the freedoms we have today due to the sacrifice of many. Independence Day is the most important American holiday, because as long as we continue to respect the past we will continue to strive for the excellence that our forefathers hoped for this great nation. As a Soldier, I hope to continue to honor their memory each and every day I serve.

From:  Jim Casto, Colorado

This holiday mean so much to me as I was in Iraq for the 4th of July in 2005. The base chow hall was totally decorated for the 4th and that made it special. My Dad served in WWII and passed away about 10 years ago. My mother is in a nursing home with deminsia. I have relatives who have crossed the diversity line to have a happy life. I have a wife Linda who I have been married to for 37 years and it wasn't until my 55th birthday before I went to Iraq and was proud of my wife for staying strong while I was gone. She had many friends who helped her, and understand the sacrifice. So, for this day in American history, my wife and I are going to celebrate our country at the Nations Capitol where many men and women have sacrificed their lives serving others so we can remain free.  Don't you just love what the United States stand for.  Always Proud, Jim Casto

From:  James Warner, Georgia

The Fourth of July Celebration reminds me how the 3rd Army had librated Italy in World War II. Camera footage has been kept well preserved. One year ABC News showed camera footage of Army GIs waving as the press corp and the camera man passed by in their vehicle. One of them was my late father.  The Fourth of July reminds me the many times I thought what my father was facing and how the people of Italy had seen him in the 3rd Army when General Patton and General Montgomery of the United Kingdom librated Italy together.  Sincerely, James...

From:  Susan Franks, Maryland

This year my son will have served his 2nd year in the United States Air Force. He is serving his country; and I am proud of him and the other young men and women who are ensuring that we on the home front can get in our beds and sleep at night because of the sacrifice that they have made and continue to make to defend our freedom her in the United States of America...God Bless Us All.

Joshua Robert Nowlin, New York

...time to reamber pepole that give us are freedom that fight in wars today and past and give they live,s for us die for our freedom!  Josh

From:  Norma Murray

According to USA.gov website “Independence Day honors the birthday of the United States of America and the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. It's a day of picnics and patriotic parades, a night of concerts and fireworks, and a reason to fly the American flag” (USA.gov, 2008). Over the years Independence Day meant going out to a picnic all day, enjoying friends, neighbors, and family. Then the best part was sitting around watching the fireworks. Even though I knew what I was celebrating, I never really took in the full meaning of what it symbolized. To me a celebration of freedom is what it used to be; up until a couple of years ago.

I have had the same best friend since I was five, Lynda. I was with her when she had her son, James Johnson, at 18. Jimmy has always been a great kid. I bought him his first fire truck at seven years old. When he graduated high school he went on to volunteer for the fire department as an EMT. Very independent, strong willed, and outgoing. When Jimmy turned 19, two years ago, he informed his mother that he would be joining the US Marines. He originally planned to go over as an EMT to assist with fallen soldiers in Iraq and Iran. Now Lance Corporal, James Johnson, is fighting on the front line in a war for another country. Lynda is very proud of her son, as am I, but there is never a minute that goes by without worry for her son. Jimmy chose to fight for the independence of others, and he is doing it proudly. He is one person who has changed my mind about what Independence Day means.

Another person who has changed my mind about fun-in-the-sun on Independence Day is my step-father, Hank Kolar. Henry Kolar was drafted in 1943, at the age of 22, into the US Army. Henry Kolar was a T5, which is a Technician Corporal. He fought on the front line of the 95th Infantry and did his tour in France. He is very proud of the duty he has served for his country in helping another country. France is also very proud and appreciative of Hank’s tour-of-duty. As stated in the Pulaski County Journal, on June 24, 2009, “On June 6th, Kolar of Winamac, IN., was named Knight of the Legion of Honor for his valorous action of WWII” (Hettinger, 2009). This honor is the highest honor France can bestow on anyone for outstanding valor. France celebrates Bastille Day on July 14 as their Independence Day, and they can do this because of people like Hank who fought to keep their independence.

These two men have changed my opinion on what Independence Day means to me. James who is so young and determined to do what he can do for another country’s independence and Hank who had fought a war many years ago to help a country keep their independence, symbolize exactly what it means to appreciate the independence our country has had since 1776. Our independence, in our country, allows us the ability to proudly help other countries achieve the same independence.

From:  Thomas, Georgia

Fourth of July means the honoring of our Country and the Celebration of the Freedom we have fought to have for decades and decades to come

From:  Bianca Maria, New York

hey America!  i think its a time to celebrate our freedoms and free rights not just singing patriotic songs about loving our country and being with loved ones and seeing the dream that is being realized. And to give thanks to so many people that gave up their lives and sacrificed so much for this country and being an American.

From:  Donna Teresa, California

I have so many memories about Fourth of July moments from the past. As a child, you seem to think there are no problems in the world and the day is spent with family, friends, fireworks and sharing a meal. As the years pass and I get older and watching my children age, my feeling about this day means so much more. I gain a new profound love for my country each day. I appreciate the freedoms that we as Americans take for granted. And, I especially owe the biggest gratitude and thanks to our veterans and troops who have kept our country free since 1776. We as civilians, owe these men and women our deepest thanks everyday, not just on Veteran's Day, Memorial Day or July 4th. So many have lost their lives from every war. Freedom has been given to us, but a heavy price. Let's remember our fallen and our wounded and let's remember to help make this country a better place regardless of our differences in honor of them and their service.

From:  Anita R. Coats, Washington

As a child, patriotism was pervasive in my New England home. I knew from an early time that days such as Memorial Day, Independance Day and Veteran's Day were not just days to picnic and have fun. It was instilled in me, by example, by this quiet and proud WWII vet, that we must care for all our service personnel EVERY day. My dad lived by that theme, helping all people everyday, as a citizen, veteran, husband, dad and mail carrier. So now, I don't mind if people see me wearing my patriotism on my sleeve each day, I proudly stand and teach my students to salute the flag each day before our lessons begin. We work together to make each person in the classroom's lives a little easier, and when one of America's special holiday's comes near, I make sure I pass on to this new generation of children, how important our beliefs in life, liberty and the persuit of happiness is each and every day! They students ask why I shed a tear now and then during flag salute...my response...I'm thinking of all the men and women who died so I can have the freedom to stand and openly salute our country's flag.

From:  Jan Lucas, Iowa

As a Ride Captain for Patriot Guard Riders in Iowa, I have attended many funerals for our military past and present. I hear over and over, when talking to their families and friends, that their loved one "loved what they were doing". On this important day, I remember these heroes, young and old, and a quote from G.K. Chesterton..."The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him." God bless all those that have served and those that serve today and God bless America!!

From:  Robert S. Turner, Illinois

The 4th of July was my wife's favorite holiday. Every Fourth we would plant an American flag at the end of every driveway on our block. No one ever knew it was us. Today, as I watched the local parade and remembered my wife and my father who served in WWII I felt my heart swell with pride and appreciation as the color guard passed and people rose from their chairs, and cheered and clapped for these service men and women and a flag that means so much to us all.

From:  Adryenne Johnson, California

The Fourth of July is a special holiday to me and my family because its a time to celebrate America and our freedom. My husband serves in the United States Navy and I am very proud of him and our country. I want to thank all the men and women who have and are now serving in the US Armed Forces. Thank you for your dedication to this country. It's because of you all that we get to be with our families on this special day. To Everyone away from their families God Bless and come home safe.

From:  Rona Elliot, Pennsylvania

I think the 4th of July has changed by circumstance of war in it's meaning. I have always enjoyed the festivities that take place on this special day- but the day has come to mean much more than a celebration. To honor the soldiers who have died fighting in the war and to thank those that still serve is the reason I will spend this July 4th listening to songs that make me proud and make me cry. I will celebrate the life of our soldiers and take nothing for granted- because freedom isn't free, and families all across America know it.

From:  Sheila Owens, Florida

i was born in germany after wwII, fatherd by a US soldier, german mother. he went back after his tour to his wife in the US. I was adopted by an american soldier stationed there in wiesbaden and his wife (they adopted 5 german chlldren in two years). We came to the states and have been very blessed. I have had many great opportunities here as this country is still very well blessed even to this day in time. I AM VERY PROUD OF THIS COUNTRY AND ALWAYS WILL BE. GOD BLESS AMERICA AND OUR FIGHTING MEN WHO KEEP OUR FREEDOM. PRAYERS GO OUT TO THEM AND THIS COUNTRY.

From:  David I. Kasse, Florida

I retired as a Commander, Supply Corps, USN on 1 July 1984 after serving our country for 20+ years. From the time I was a young child I knew some day that I would serve and after a few years on active duty, I found my calling. While living in the DC area, we rarely missed the Capitol Fourth Concerts. The patriotism displayed always brought tears to my eyes.  As we approach the Summer Olympics, I think of each time I see the USA win a gold medal and I hear the national anthem - I ALWAYS have tears in my eyes. I am so proud to be a US citizen. God bless our country, its leaders and those who serve.

From:  R. Pendergraft, North Carolina

I have always loved to celebrate the fourth - I love my country and am always happy to come together with other Americans to celebrate our freedom! So many have died for us to have the simple freedoms that are many times taken for granted every day. I'm so thankful for every man and woman who are protecting us even as we speak. God bless America!

From:  Cliff Smith, New York

While we declared our independence in 1776, we still had to fight a brutal war to secure that freedom.  It’s all those lives lost then and in later conflicts that remind us that our freedom has ever been anything but free.  It is that price that makes all the July 4 picnics and parades possible.

From:  Kate Westfall, Florida

The 4th of July means to me a time to reflect on the courage of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, for without them, we would not have the opportunity and privilege of living in this great nation.  It’s also a time for me to reflect on my decision to serve in the military and to remember why I chose to raise my hand and swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

From:  Beverly Summerrow, South Carolina

My father fought against tyranny at Iwo Jima, my sweetheart died in a field in Vietnam, and I have stood at the gravesides of four American soldiers killed in Iraq.  The Fourth of July is so much more than fireworks, oh, so much more.  It is a spirit of thankfulness and acknowledgment of what liberty truly means.  A staggering reminder to never, ever take it for granted.

From:  Jim Vandelly, Virginia

The 4th of July holiday and the PBS annual “A Capitol Fourth” celebration prove to the world that no terrorist organization or ideological extremist can break the unity and will of our multi-national country.  Independence Day has come to signify that America embraces all world races, religions and cultures.

From:  Patricia Robinson, Georgia

The 4th of July reminds me how proud I am to be an American.  I come from a long line of military family and I believe it gives you a greater sense of how many have sacrificed from the beginning of our great land to welcome those who arrived on shore ... how many shore we’ve crossed to help others.  This 4th I am most amazed at how many enlist in the military to fight for a cause they believe in – America – all Americans.

From:  Susan Goldstein, New York

This [“A Capitol Fourth”] celebration truly reflects on how I grew up in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s ... our “new” generation must possess the same passion that we had for the freedom that exists in America.  Unfortunately a war isn’t the answer, however I do think that our great servicemen serve as the “role models” needed to teach this generation about passion, integrity and commitment!!!  I pray that they all come home soon and safe with the help of the Almighty.

From:  Eric Turner, Tennessee

No words set my heart afire like these words from the song, “America the Beautiful”:

Oh beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life.

I hear those words and it hits me right in my heart.  My chest tightens up, a pit forms in my stomach and my throat clinches.  The words to that second verse touch me like no other and remind me of the sacrifice of good men and women who serve in the military.  I don’t know if I ever truly appreciated service related holidays when I was in the military the way I do now that I am retired from the Army.  I am proud of my military service.  I wasn’t the best soldier but I did the duty and I served when others wouldn’t.  I am proud to be in a fraternity that is only shared by 13% of the population.

From:  Kaki Newgard, Illinois

My son Will was killed in Baghdad, Iraq in December 2006 by an IED.  He drove a Humvee for his job – often driving high-ranking officers to meetings with Iraqi Army officials.  Will’s job was to protect these officers, and he loved his job.  He was only 20, but was drawn to the military since he was small.  I know he died doing what he loved – protecting us back home, offering protection to the Iraqi Army and defending our freedom.  My job is a school secretary in Palatine, Illinois, and my students were quite enthusiastic last fall in collecting needed items and sending care packages to Iraq in care of Will for soldiers who needed supplies, extra socks, hand/foot creams, etc.  Will came home on leave for two weeks in December and spoke to the classes of students at my school thanking those who were responsible for writing his platoon and sending the packages.  When news of his death reached our community, the students were deeply affected and planned two celebrations honoring him and all the soldiers abroad.  I believe Memorial Day and the 4th of July will hold the proper meaning for all of these kids forever after because one soldier touched their lives.  I pray that other people can be touched in the same way – hopefully without losing a friend, a soldier their community, a brother or a son.  Peace to all – God Bless America!

From:  Rita A. Parks, South Carolina

Celebrating the Fourth of July is an honor.  This celebration brings all Americans together to celebrate our great country and also honor those who have made the United States the greatest country in the world.  We should never forget how fortunate we are to live and have all the freedoms we are afforded.  God Bless America!

From:  Jennifer Hughes, Washington

On today, the 4th of July, America's Birthday, I think about patriotism. As a child, it meant being proud to be an American as I recited the Pledge of Allegiance. As a teen, it meant thanking and appreciating those who served our country, to defend our freedom and the freedom of others around the world. Now, as a young adult, it means reflecting on my choice to enter the military as an officer after completing college, as I am motivated by my own sense of duty to serve my country.

From:  Heidi Bassani, Washington, DC

Independence Day has always been a time for me to be grateful for all our service members and their families who have sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy and often abuse.  In my job, I work with injured soldiers and now not a day passes that I'm not inspired and awed by these brave and resilient men and women.  We should be thankful every day, not one day a year, that we have people like this securing our freedom! Thank you a million times over.

From:   Jeanette Mullis, Arkansas

[July 4th, 2006] is the 2nd 4th of July celebration since my son returned from 2 deployments to Iraq.  We will grill hotdogs and hamburgers and we will remember the hardships and emotional suffering of the families of those serving in the military.  Most of all, we will give thanks that our family can be together in this great country.

From:  Matthew Weaver, North Carolina

July 4th means everything to me. As a college student who is studying to become a history professor, I am constantly moved and amazed reading the sacrifices that our early American leaders endured and some died so that we can have our freedom. Freedom to worship, go to work, attend school, and to be with our families is the greatest freedom in the world. Whether you agree/disagree with the war situation that is going on, our soldiers deserve the respect and support from Americans. May God always bless America and this great country.

From:  Linda Montoya, Texas

I recently returned from my first visit to Washington, D.C.  The memorial that I most wanted to see was the World War II Memorial.  My father served in the US Army during WWII, and fought in the Pacific. He did not live long enough to see this Memorial finished and would have been proud to see that he, along with others, were not forgotten. That Memorial, along with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Korean Memorial moved me to tears.  The words ‘Freedom is not free’ etched on the wall at the Korean War Memorial takes on new meaning after the events of 911.  A young man who meant a great deal to our family was killed in Iraq on December 4, 2004.  I also saw the new Memorial Wall in the Rayburn House Office Bldg. dedicated to those killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. The lives of all of these young men and women lost to us in war stand as a reminder to all what the freedoms we enjoy cost so many.  On this Independence Day, I am a free, independent citizen of the USA because of all of those in the military who have served for me, my family and the freedoms I enjoy.  Freedom is not free. The cost is great, and many paid the price for me.  To them I am thankful, and because of them I am blessed.

From:  Robert Martin, Indiana

To me, the Fourth of July is more than just family, hot dogs, apple pie and fireworks – it is a time to reflect on all of the freedoms I have as a citizen of the USA; and it is a time to be grateful to all the men and women who have sacrificed time, fortune, liberty and even life so that I, and every citizen, could have those freedoms given us in the Constitution.

From:  Raymond E. Smith, Washington

The Fourth of July means liberty and justice for all; freedom of worship and speech.  I am a Korean Vet and I love my country and I am proud that I served my country.

From:  Brian Aucion, Massachusetts

I am so thankful to all the veterans who made the sacrifice so that we all may live in freedom.  I am only 46 and have never served in the Armed Forces, but I have the utmost respect for all the men and women in uniform.  Ask my wife, I have flags all around the house and whenever she wants to get me a present, I tell her, ‘Anything with the flag on it.’  God bless our great land.

From:  Dale Karraker, Maryland

As a fourth generation US Navy retiree, I use this day to reinforce to my children the importance of this date and what it represents.  Having seen first-hand around the globe what it is like NOT to have the freedoms we hold so dear, we try to emphasize reflection on the sacrifices that gave us those freedoms.  We usually have a family barbecue followed by attending the “A Capitol Fourth” celebration or a commemoration at one of the National Battlefields in the DC area.  Our most revered tradition, however, is to raise the flag as a family in front of our home, followed by a reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance.  If we are not at “A Capitol Fourth”, we ALWAYS watch it on PBS.  Keep up the great tradition!