What Independence Day Means To Us

Independence Day conjurs up different memories and feelings for different people. Today, as we celebrated the birth of our great country… we asked some of our writers and Military Spouse of the Year winners to share what this holiday means to them. What does The Fourth of July mean to you?

Alisha Youch, 2013 Navy Spouse of the Year

“For me, Independence Day is a reminder of the value of our freedom. A little over two centuries ago, colonists in this land felt strongly enough about their desire for freedom from tyranny that they were willing to die for it. Independence Day is a reminder of the tremendous gift of freedom we have been given and of our responsibility to handle it with care and maintain it, unbroken, to pass on to our children and our children’s children. Freedom may be most often won by blood on the battlefield, but it is maintained by each and every one of us through our daily actions, our understanding of our rights and our insistence that those freedoms persist.”

Beth Garland, National Guard Spouse

“The 4th of July is my father with his hand over his heart, getting choked up singing the “Star Spangled Banner”. It’s the American flag, the biggest I’ve ever seen, that was hung from an overpass of a busy highway in my hometown the day after 9/11. It’s staying to say the “Pledge of Allegiance” with my daughter’s class after morning drop off. It’s the sign outside the main gate of MCAS New River that says, “Pardon Our Noise: It’s the Sound of Freedom.” It’s the first sight of my husband in that Emergency Room partition, blue and broken from the IED that could’ve claimed his life in Iraq, the cost of freedom never more clear to me. We celebrate Independence Day just once a year, but for me, it’s about recognizing the freedom it represents every single day.”

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Mona Hatfield, 2010 Coast Guard Spouse of the Year

“Independence Day for me means hard work, sacrifice and gratitude. I was in the check out line at the grocery store yesterday (3 Jul) and the gentlemen behind me made a statement about being in California before he left for Vietnam. After the conversation, I thanked him for his service and apologized for the way he was treated when he came home. As I started to leave I wanted to tell him, “Thank you for my 4th of July” but tears had welled up in my eyes and my throat choked up, making me incapable of speech. I have friends that immigrated from Vietnam before the fall of democracy. They are heartbroken that there is no more democracy in their country and find it very difficult to stay connected to their family. That *could* be America if it weren’t for our men and women that step up and defend freedom. THAT is what Independence Day means to me.”

Jen Chaloux, Army Spouse

“The 4th of July, the American flag, and the “rockets red glare” are a reminder of what people/family in the past, present and future have sacrificed to allow our great nation to be free. Despite the political differences, I believe we still live in the greatest nation in the world. We are a melting pot of great people who sacrifice for the future of others. We are a nation of truly brave individuals I proudly call heroes. And it’s a day to also remember those who are no longer with us…always moving forward, never retreat…we are Americans!”

Morgan Slade, Army Spouse

“I think of Independence Day as my “personal Thanksgiving.” The thought of an unorganized, imperfect, and obsolete community of citizens rising up to challenge the most efficient and dominating force IN THE WORLD and succeeding is beyond my comprehension. The sacrifice and sheer heroism exhibited by all who aided in the revolution is something, that I feel, is a standard to which modern patriots try to achieve. I cannot attest that our country is perfect but I can, however, uphold that our country has the richest history of men and women who have voluntarily upheld and successfully defended our fundamental values of freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I am overwhelmed with thanksgiving when I ponder all those who presently and historically sacrificed so much to enable me to live in the greatest nation on earth.”

Slade with flag

Rebekah Sanderlin, Army Spouse

“Independence Day was always just another fun holiday for me until 2008. My husband was deployed to Afghanistan and his FOB (Forward Operating Base) was getting rocketed almost every night. I was visiting my family in Nashville and had been invited to a party at a home with a balcony overlooking the city’s spectacular fireworks, which were choreographed to music. As the national anthem played and the fireworks were synced to “…and the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air…” I burst into tears. For the first time those words really meant something to me. I knew that, right then, on the other side of the world, the love of my life was staring up in gratitude that the star-spangled banner still waved – and the 4th of July hasn’t been the same for me ever since.”

Stacy Huisman, Air Force Spouse

“Being from Las Vegas, Fourth of July was just another reason for the city to celebrate. Fireworks would go off from every hotel top, every outdoor venue booked with fabulous bands and pyrotechnics. We couldn’t wait for the sun to finally set – which felt like an eternity. Once our personal fire works were finished, we’d climb on our roofs to watch the tops of the hotels and outdoor arenas ignite in the most magnificent display of patriotism. We were lucky to be Vegas kids, because we felt like the entire city gave us our own personal fireworks show from the comforts of our rooftops. Like everything else in Las Vegas, the fireworks were always showstoppers! It’s hard not watch fireworks today without wondering what my hometown skyline might look like. Missing home.”

Las Vegas 4th Of July

Alicia Hinds Ward, 2013 Military Spouse of the Year

“I chose to become a citizen of this nation. For years as an immigrant, I saw the July 4th parades and honored our troops with a sense of pride in our military. The friendship and fellowship of this day of celebration never escaped me, however there is always this sense of melancholy. When I look at the precise lines of tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery, I am reminded of all those who through love of country, gave their lives to protect and serve. I think of the Declaration made centuries ago separating this country from Britain and creating a nation of citizens with the right to live freely and pursue liberty and happiness. I chose this country, for love of country. So, on Independence Day, I am reminded that we are a land of free citizens, because of our generations of brave citizens. I enjoy my family, food, fellowship, fun, and all patriotic things. I pray for the men and women not able to be with their families. I wave the Stars and Stripes proudly for the nation of my choice, and the uniformed forces of my heart.”


Kate Dolack, Marine Corps Spouse

“My father, a Vietnam War vet, cherishes his 48 Ford Pick Up Truck. A gift from my mom on his birthday, he dresses up that beautiful blue and silver Ford and drives it in my home town’s parade every year. He spoke little of his time during Vietnam, but the way his hands meticulously dressed that Ford in red, white and blue spoke volumes. Two years ago, when my husband, who is a Marine, was deployed over Independence Day, I traveled back to my hometown for a semblance of peace in an otherwise emotional couple of months. When I arrived, I found my father hoisting an American Flag and a Marine Corps flag atop the truck. He steadied a radio in the back to play the National Anthem, and that year, as I watched him drive by with my nieces and nephews, the nearby crowd stood and began to sing the National Anthem in unison. That’s the thing about America-we’re human, we’re vulnerable, and sometimes we realize how lucky we truly are to live in this country. I can’t listen to crowds singing the National Anthem without breaking into tears. For me, Independence Day is just that-togetherness. If it’s the cherry pie, or the 48 Ford, or voices in unison that bring us together-then it’s all valid. It’s in that momentary gratitude of red and blue decked out children chasing parade candy, moms and dads laughing from the sidelines. It’s families on a blanket, huddled close to other families to form one great big mass of us. Of US-as we watch tiny firework rockets and shield our eyes from it’s red, and blue, and dazzling white glare.”


Monica Pugh, National Guard Spouse

“When we attend events or just ride our bikes my husband always says that what he has gone through was all worth it for the freedoms we have. And I have learned that too. Tonight we are sitting on our state capital lawn listening to jazz and our symphony waiting for fireworks with many many people. And I would do it all again and so would he for all of these people to have the freedom to experience this and their daily events.”

Lucha Reyna, National Guard Spouse

“When I think of Independence Day I think of celebrations: parades, flags flying high, barbeques, family and friends, maybe poolside/lakeside/beachside. There HAS to be a firework show, sometimes a large and grand display or small just in the front yard with sparklers and some family favorites. It HAS to have our favorite foods, drinks and desserts. I feel proud on this day for all that the celebrating signifies. The fact that my family and I were blessed enough to be born in this country. The fact that our family, historically and presently, has the honor in doing their part in protecting the liberties and freedoms this country was founded on. That these days, though flawed and imperfect like its individual parts, I still am proud to call this country home. Whether we were in Sea World in the middle of Texas while my husband was lucky enough to be home for R and R on his first deployment, or clear across the country from our hometown but instead beachside with military friends and not one blood relative…I celebrated! With all its ups and downs, triumphs and tribulations, great diversity yet oneness… I celebrate my home and the wonderful life it has afforded me!”

Erin Whitehead, Web Editor and 2010 Marine Corps Spouse of the Year

“Tonight I sit in a hotel room with my family, watching the fireworks on TV as they brightly explode in bursts of color over our Nation’s Capitol. I am reminded of just how lucky all of us are to live in this amazing country, and I reminded of just how lucky I am as well. This year, my husband is home and safe. Both of my children are happy and healthy. I have an incredible job where I work for and with a community I adore. The past few years have been overflowing with blessings and opportunity. As I hear the band play “Stars and Stripes” I am overcome with emotion. I am so very grateful for the incredible things America has provided myself and my family. I am grateful to all of those who have served and continue to serve so that America will continue to be the most amazing country on the planet.”

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