July 3, 2013 | LXXIII, No. 14

Proud to be an American!

Jess Shut Up

When I was a kid the Fourth of July meant fireworks, swimming, picnics and family. We would beg our parents to buy us fireworks and of course fire crackers were my favorite. Back then I did not think of wildland fires or the dangers of explosives; we were just kids and wanted to hear the booms and see the magnificent colors and the sparks falling back to earth.

My Grandpa Utz would always spoil us and purchase what seemed to be the biggest box, and, of course, he supplied us with firecrackers. Black Cat was the brand I remember. A big black cat with snarling teeth on the package, it just looked mean and we all thought we were braver just to light the fuse and let them explode.

We could not wait for the sun to set on this magical day and to cuddle with a blanket and wait and see what blazing color would be emitted next. These were special times.

As I got older, we would be more daring with the fireworks. (I am not going to go into detail due to not wanting others to try it.) We were stupid and it’s amazing that someone did not get killed or lose an eye, at the least. We did start some fires but we were lucky they stayed small and we were always able to get them out with a hose, buckets of water and by stomping them out — once again, escaping big trouble.

At the age of 16, I joined the fire department’s Explorer Scouts and things changed. For 22 years a hatred of fireworks and the Fourth of July grew. I always worked, I missed family events, and just when the evening came and the heat subsided, we got the busiest. It was not fun. But the past few years I have refound the joy of Independence Day and I have come to the realization of why we celebrate this day to begin with. I have set off fireworks with my family and sat and ate with them. I sat on my deck and watched the fireworks off the top of the dam. I have rekindled that small child’s joy of feeling the boom and my eyes sparkling just as much as the colored sparks in the air. I even helped Gary and Tammy sell fireworks last year and had a blast. Literally.

The men and women who have lost their lives defending our country and others’ freedoms, the Marines, Air Force, Army and Navy, firefighters, law enforcement, Coast Guard and many others died for me and for you. So we can gather in parks, in our homes, in churches and at the beach to celebrate our freedom. Freedom that has shed blood and cried tears. I am prouder today than I have ever been to be an American. Is our country perfect? Nope. Not by a long shot. But we are free.

So whether you’re launching a boat, a firework, or large amounts of water at burning sagebrush, please remember what exactly we are celebrating. Freedom. Oh, and Deano’s birthday.

This is dedicated to the 19 firefighters who lost their lives on 6/30/2013 in Arizona fighting a wildland fire and to all the men and women who give their lives every day for our country. God Bless the USA.

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