Family, friends, BBQ, parades, Old Glory flying and fireworks. These bring up different Fourth of July memories for each of us.
For me, I can add a few other memories to this list ─ a waterless pool party in Northern Iraq, the dilemma of fireworks and the Alaskan midnight sun, and more recently, a moment at the Riverbend Campground near Hiawassee, Georgia.
I look forward to Fourth of July gatherings because of the unique traditions that have evolved over the years. I’ve spent July 4 in different countries and states, with family and friends from across the globe. The common theme across them all has always been celebrating our freedom with the ones we love.
But there’s a whole other family for people who’ve served in the military. When we take our vows to protect and defend our nation, every person we serve with, anyone who has ever served, or friends and family of people who’ve served ─ whether we know them or not ─ instantly becomes a family member. For many of us, this is at the core of why we serve, or what we miss from our time in uniform. Each of us brings that into our own Fourth of July traditions, and for me, 2017 was no different.
Back to the Riverbend Campground I mentioned earlier. For the past few Independence Days, my family and friends have gathered there on Lake Chatuge in the North Georgia mountains. Just like years past, this July 4 started with a sunrise 7-mile run carrying my American flag from my parents’ house into the town of Hiawassee. As always, I was greeted by honks and waves from just about every motorist who passed me.
After a hearty breakfast, many of my relatives and neighbors rallied behind my father, a 20-year U.S. Air Force veteran, for a 4-mile walk up and down country roads carrying Old Glory. The celebration continued after lunch with a 1-mile flag stroll with my wife and our twin daughters.
Then came the highlight of the day, when all of us hiked about a half mile in the dark to the edge of the Riverbend Campground to watch one of the best fireworks shows I’ve ever seen. There were no fancy LED lights or laser shows. There wasn’t even a band. It was a simple, but spectacular celebration of America that played out in the dark sky for a few hundred people to see.
This tradition has become something so important to me that, as the development project manager for Team Red, White and Blue (RWB), I’m able to pass on part of my tradition to others. Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans through physical and social activities within their communities. The passion to get up and get moving is how the Eagle Charge was born. It’s a virtual race, sponsored by Walmart, that challenges participants to move 7 or 4 miles to celebrate our nation’s Independence Day.
There are still Eagle Charge runs going on around the country through July 8, so you can still find a race in your area . Show your support for the men and women who have and are still serving in the military. Get up. Get moving. Show your appreciation however you can.