Celebrate America

Published 10:51 am Friday, July 3, 2009

Sometimes it’s easy to forget the freedoms of living in America.

The freedom to travel the world, in hopes of educating young people, the freedom to be a voice for a local community, the freedom even to hold a simple parade in a small town — these are freedoms many could easily overlook.

But for three Pike County men, not a day goes by that these are forgotten. That is especially true on a day that marks the independence they spent many years fighting to preserve.

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John Schmidt, Charlie Dunn and Lawrence Bowden, all military veterans, spend July 4 just like most others would — with family and fireworks and good food.

The holiday for them, however, takes on a meaning that goes beyond those events, likely a meaning any war veteran carries in his or her heart.

“When I think about it, it’s all about patriotism, pride, love of country,” said retired U.S. Army Colonel and Brundidge City Councilman Bowden.

“I get a little bit of a goosebump thrill thinking about what people have done to make it possible to have a plain old parade in small-town Brundidge.”

It’s the same spirit that Schmidt, retired U.S. Marine Corps Colonel and Troy University administrator, will feel today.

“I believe our celebration on the Fourth of July is because a group of patriots were willing to sacrifice and go in harm’s way for liberty and freedom,” Schmidt said. “I believe that we have that same spirit today, that Americans will remember the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave’ because men and women are still willing to sacrifice for the preservation of our way of life, and America will remain great so long as that spirit prevails.”

And for Dunn, retired Sergeant from the U.S. Army, Troy city councilman and head of a local military service group Charlie’s Angels, the sacrifices only amplify the celebration of July 4, 1776.

“It makes me feel glad I was able to make the sacrifices I made serving in two wars,” Dunn said. “If I had not made that sacrifice, I wouldn’t realize the true meaning of it.”

Dunn said more than just remembering his sacrifice, July 4 is a time he especially feels the rewards of his service.

“It means a whole lot to me to know that people think enough of the sacrifices that have been made and come out to the ceremonies to show their appreciation,” Dunn said.

Bowden said even though he has served in combat in the Korean War, he is certain the July 4 holiday should take on a special meaning to all Americans.

“I think more than having served in the armed forces is what we know about our country,” Bowden said.

“If you understand all this about your country and all that goes into making it great, the holiday will (mean the same to you).”

Bowden said there is also something great to be said about those non-military citizens who have sacrificed for freedom through the years.

“Everybody’s been impacted by somebody in the military,” Bowden said.

“We focus a great deal on that, but so many sacrifices were made along the way.”

And Dunn, who fought in the Korean War and the Vietnam War, continues making those sacrifices today.

Through Charlie’s Angels, a service group of retired or honorably-discharged military servicemen, he is able to give to his community’s youth and perform military honors for deceased veterans.

In that, Dunn will perform special military honors at the city of Troy’s annual fireworks event Saturday night.

While Schmidt won’t be performing these same honors, he will be carrying them in his heart as he watches the ‘rockets red glare.’

“When I see the fireworks in the evening, it does remind me of that phrase in the ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ ‘the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air,’” Schmidt said.

“It brings back recollections of combat and reminds me that today there are men and women that not only see fireworks but bombs bursting in air. It does have a little different flavor than somebody who is just going out to celebrate the day.”

Schmidt fought in the Vietnam War and the first Gulf War.

On behalf of all veterans, Schmidt said he encourages Pike County to take extra pride in the freedoms it has, particularly on today, when that freedom first began.

“I encourage all Pike Countians to fly the flag very high.”