Saturday, July 5, 2014

Independence Day: Fifty Years After Fifty Gun Salute

July 4th 1964 is a distant memory, expounded on in my post in 2010:
 "Independence Day: Freedom and Underwear" Blog Post from 2010

I was a New Cadet at West Point.  The fifty gun salute, shared with my classmates in the great class of 1968, is my main memory of that day.  I note the photos today on Facebook of the New Cadets at West Point in the Class of 2018.  We are their 50 Year Affiliate Class.  We are connecting with them in various ways over the next four years in a flashback and "flashforth".  I wish them well.

Independence Day 1971 was special, too, since I celebrated it in Vietnam.  No fireworks.  No war that day, either since it was a holiday.  I don't know if the enemy honored it throughout South Vietnam.  Our 45th Engineer Group HQ officers celebrated in the beachfront officer's club which we visited each night to play cards, get refreshed and, on special occasions, sing.  I was one of the song leaders, Kurt Sins (now an attorney in New Orleans) was the piano player.  We sang every patriotic song we could think of on the Fourth of July.  And we did toast America with our favorite beverages.

Independence Day 1976 was another special one.  I had just started my Family Practice Residency in Hershey, PA at the MS Hershey Medical Center of Penn State University. The Governor's Convention (of the United States) was held in Hershey that week, so VIP's were in town and the fireworks from Hershey Park were special for the 200th Birthday of America.

This weekend, I played the CDs of our West Point Glee Club Reunions (2007 and 2011).  I love the music.  I love the meaning of the music.  I love the patriotic songs.  I cry more now as I reflect on some of the people we've lost and those associated with America and its music.  I'm especially touched by America the Beautiful as performed by our West Point Glee Club with a historical narration and The Battle Hymn of the Republic.
 Vietnam, the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial and my friends and classmates who served in the Army occupy my nostalgic reflections.  Twenty members of the great Class of 1968 (No Task Too Great) are honored with their names on "The Wall", reminding us of their deaths from their service in Vietnam.

Independence Day, from the British.  What a commitment the signers made.  We endorsed it at West Point with our Oath on the first day and reaffirmed it  as Army (mostly, but some went into other services) officers with our Oath on graduation day.

Independence is worth celebrating.  Fireworks, singing, gatherings of friends and family.  Way to go America.

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