Man on the Street: What does 4th of July mean to you?

With Fourth of July approaching, the Clovis Roundup interviewed local veterans on the significance of this special holiday and what it means to them personally. Here’s what they had to say. Photos by Daniel Leon.

John Durant, U.S. Air Force veteran

“I realized very early in my life, at around 7-8 years old, that Fourth of July is a gigantic holiday. It’s been a big holiday for me all my life. I’ve been all over the world, I’ve seen the conditions under which some people live and I realize that we live in the most unique country in the history of the world. We have freedoms that no one else has. I’m so grateful that I was born in the United States.”

Paul Kaser, U.S. Air Force veteran

“When I heard that question, I thought of when my wife and I were in the Soviet Union in 1976. We were told the Russian people didn’t like the Americans, but we found that they were pretty friendly. We had a friend who was teaching over there and the first thing he said to us was ‘Congratulations on your country winning its freedom.’ His country didn’t have freedom so that reminded me of what it meant to be an American and be free. That was on July 4, 1976 – the 200th anniversary of our country. Sometimes we have to talk to other people who’ve had other experiences to really appreciate what it means to be free.”

Jim Johnson, U.S. Navy veteran

“The Fourth of July means freedom for future generations. I have a young grand-nephew, Oxley, and I’m trying to teach him what our independence means. It’s important for future generations to know our history.”

Bob Talmage, U.S. Air Force veteran

“Looking back at the history of our country, I realize with gratitude what our forefathers did. It’s a special time to think about what they went through, what generations have gone through before that to preserve what they gave us – the Declaration of Independence.”

Vernon Schmidt, U.S. Army veteran

“Fourth of July is a day in history that I think we should all be aware of. In every war we have lost many, many people. They gave their lives unselfishly. We need to continually remind ourselves that the price of freedom is not free. We all need to count our blessings that we are American citizens living here because someone else paid a real price for our freedom. If July 4 is a day to shoot up a flare, then it should be a flare of gratefulness for this nation and for the people that paid that real price.”

Marlene Raffety, veteran supporter

“It signifies the independence that the United States gained when they won the war against the British. America was strong enough to be a united country, and the unison came as a result of determination. I’m so grateful to all the veterans and this country.”

Ben Llanos, U.S. Army veteran

“It reminds me of the veterans that fought for our country and the liberation of other countries. Fourth of July is a special day and I’m grateful to be part of it. I thank God that I’m alive to celebrate it. I think Fourth of July should stay very much in focus to celebrate the independence of America – and I hope we have many more.”

Jim Anderson, U.S. Army veteran

“The Fourth of July always brings goosebumps to me. From the time I was very small, it was a time for family to get together. As I grew older, I learned about the meaning of Fourth of July. It’s always been a very important day. I always put my flag out and honor that day.”

Gerald Rettela, U.S. Army veteran

“It’s a symbol of freedom, it’s a symbol that represents the greatest country in the world. So much has been lost under that flag – blood and tears. At my home, I fly that flag 24/7. That’s how important it is to me.”

Olin Gray, U.S. Navy veteran

“On Fourth of July, I’m reminded that freedom isn’t free.”

Ron Sundquist, U.S. Air Force veteran

“The Fourth of July honors those that served but also it brings our community together with the celebrations. I see the red, white and blue when those fireworks go off. It’s just so emotional to see our veterans react to the Fourth of July and remember those that are lost and those that can’t be here to enjoy it.”