America the Grateful

Published 5:48 pm Sunday, July 7, 2013

AHOSKIE – It was two days of more than just fireworks exploding, hot dogs, and soft drinks, and a day off from work.

The Roanoke-Chowan area celebrated Independence Day aware of the sacrifice and the dedication of the men and women who’ve shown that “Freedom isn’t Free”.

But that doesn’t mean the celebrating did not come without some good music, good food, and great fellowship.

Windsor celebrated a day early with Independence Day festivities at the Roanoke/Cashie River Center on Wednesday, July 3rd.  It was an evening featuring vendors, music by the trio of Gaylon Pope and Sweetwater from Goldsboro, and culminating with a rousing, patriotic fireworks display after sundown.

“The Fourth means freedom and America (is) just the best place to be,” said David Swisher at the Windsor celebration. “You get to watch fireworks, go home, be with family, and cook out on the grill.

“I try to just enjoy the day,” he added with a smile. “After all, it’s back to work on Friday.”

Jean Wadsworth was decked out in patriotic attire of an American flag t-shirt with red chinos and relaxing in her folding chair with a huge smile and awaiting the start of the music.

“It’s so exciting to see everybody come together and have a good time,” she said. “I just love the fireworks here (Windsor), because they’re the best fireworks around; and they last a long time, too.”

Others expressed their gratitude as an affirmation of their faith.

“You should just thank God that you’re able to see a Fourth of July,” said Windsor’s Kenny Spivey. “You also just hope to see another one if it’s God’s will.”

Independence Day also always strikes a special chord with the area’s veterans who emphasize the sacrifice it took for freedom.

“It’s about 1776, about Independence Day,” said Post-102 American Legion member, Wayne Meeks. “This is a time to stop and reflect on what others have done for us.”

He added, “Nowadays it’s baseball, fireworks, big sales, and such. Don’t get me wrong, that’s all good; but we still need to pause and reflect.”

“I think of the Fourth as the birth of our nation,” said Williamston native, D.J. Cobb. “It’s more than just freedom and independence. We should thank our military for everything they do just so we can celebrate like we do.”

As fireworks illuminated the humid and windless night sky, members of East Carolina Council Troop 104’s Cub & Boy Scout members, along with their scouting director, marched up to the stage holding aloft the Stars-&-Stripes; all done to the music of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless The U.S.A.” blaring in the background.

“Yes, I’m proud to be an American,” said Windsor’s Charlie King, echoing the lyrics of the song. “It means a whole lot, like our men and women fighting overseas so we can be free.

“I thank God because without him we couldn’t do anything,” he added. “It truly is a privilege and an honor just to be standing here able to do this.”

Ahoskie’s Independence Day celebration took place on the traditional July 4th with festivities at Hertford County High School.  In addition to concessions and vendors, the crowd was entertained with music by the Low Down South band from Hickory, NC.

There were tents with special electric fans to cool the elderly and others in the sweltering evening’s July heat and plenty of others reclined in folding chairs awaiting the evening’s pyrotechnics.

“We’re just celebrating with family and having a good time,” said Ahoskie native Beverly Melton with a group of family members. “The Fourth means you’re especially proud to be an American.”

One day hardly makes a difference, but the veterans were just as vocal on THE day as they were the day before.

“It’s celebrating all the guys who did what I did,” said Willie Sanders, who is a retired paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne. “It makes you feel proud that so many folks appreciate it.

“It takes me back to a simpler time,” he added. “It’s good to see folks enjoying freedom because you feel like you didn’t serve for nothing.”

“I call it the ‘turn-up’,” said Jazmon Robertson of Portsmouth, VA. “It’s independence and it’s freedom; but it’s also barbecue, kids, family, time off from work, and having a good time.”

Robert Turner of Colerain said, “It’s supposed to be for veterans and for the rest of us.”

He added, “It’s a little time to get out, be around people, see family, and of course, to cook-out.”

The lights soon dimmed and the first crackles and booms of the fireworks began to illuminate the night sky.

Ronnie Sears put the cap on the evening with his expression. “The Fourth of July means independence, the right to be free, and to express oneself. There’s no country like it (America) in the world. God first, then country.”

“God bless America,” he mused, as fire and light rained from the sky.