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Never forget that fireworks and fun are about freedom

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following will appear in Spotlight Newspapers' Point of View print section this week.

The writer covers the city of Saratoga Springs for Spotlight Newspapers.

Independence Day was a special holiday when I was in the Army.

In the years I spent as a gunner on an M1A1 tank, I pulled duty the majority of Christmases. I worked every Thanksgiving and every Easter. And while I was never mobilized, we were in the field regularly, for weeks or months at a time, training with little knowledge of what day of the week it was, let alone what holiday we might be missing.

The Fourth of July was different. Wherever we were, whether we were in the field or in the rear, we celebrated Independence Day.

If we were training, we'd usually coil our tanks around in a large field and the First Sergeant and Supply Sergeant would usually pull a couple of barbecues off of the supply truck for the last meal of the day. Instead of an MRE or T-rations (imagine that foil pan of baked beans you took home from last year's family reunion; now imagine it's filled to the gills and large enough to feed a couple dozen people) they'd throw some burgers and dogs on the grill.

Some until then unseen football would appear in some young lieutenant's hand and privates who maybe only dreamed of making their high school football teams would start shedding their pistol belts and web gear so they could run button-hook patterns around tanks and Hummers and deuce-and-a-half-ton trucks.

If we were in the rear, celebrating the Fourth was an all-day event. Any training or maintenance we were in the middle of took a backseat to something we called the Battalion Olympics. Our company of 60 or so soldiers would face off against the other three companies in the battalion in events like "king of the ring" and tug-of-war.

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