The Fourth of July. Independence Day.
When you think of this holiday, what does it mean to you? Fireworks? Cooking out? Time with family? Time off work?
I talked with three veterans, two who are trustees on the Minooka Village Board and Minooka’s mayor, and asked what Independence Day means to them.
They are, after all, the ones who have served our country; the ones who have demonstrated how important our freedoms are.
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Dave Deahl was in the Air Force Special Forces for almost four years and served in Vietnam.
Deahl knew he would likely be drafted, but he signed up for the service before that happened because he was proud to serve his country, he said.
To Deahl, Independence Day is
a celebration of our country and
the freedoms we often take for granted.
He feels many people have lost the pride Americans once felt in their country.
“If you go to another country and see what the difference is, you will be glad to live in America,” he said. “Sure things are in turmoil, but we are still the best country in the world.”
Deahl and his family usually head to Morris for the Grundy County fireworks festival, which he says is the best he has seen anywhere.
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Dennis Martin served in the Army and retired from the National Guard as a Lieutenant after 23 years of service.
Memorial Day and Veterans Day are most important to him, but the Fourth of July is a day that needs to be marked and celebrated, he said.
“Independence Day is important, it’s the start of our nation,” Martin said. “We went through a long and terrible war to win our independence.”
Martin typically likes to watch the Fourth of July celebration on the Mall in Washington, D.C., on TV. Many years his family has gone to see fireworks at Channahon’s Community Park, and he would go home and watch the replay.
What he enjoys is the speakers who talk about Independence Day and the history of our country. Bands from different branches of the armed forces also play before the fireworks are lit off.
“I enjoy reliving the history of it and [the speakers’] explanations of what it means to them,” he said. “It’s kind of patriotic.”
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Minooka Mayor Pat Brennan served in the U.S. Army and the reserves a total of six years. His unit was on alert in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. But thankfully he wasn’t deployed.
Brennan said he learned discipline in the Army and was completely changed by the experience.
“You start to realize you are here for a reason, to keep all the freedoms going,” Brennan said. “A lot of guys have lost their lives serving this country.”
Independence Day for Brennan means all the freedoms that we have. In some other countries, saying the wrong thing could mean major trouble.
Brennan said it’s amazing how the Declaration of Independence, signed in 1776, has gone on for so long.
“Everybody in this country should be thankful to the forefathers for what they did,” he said.
The Brennans sometimes enjoy the fireworks locally and other times with their daughter in Crown Point, Indiana, where they can watch from her backyard.
• Kris Stadalsky writes about people and topics in areas southwest of Joliet. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.