FORT HOOD, Texas-The crowd is hushed, the children have stopped cheering, people stare as if mesmerized at the street in front of them. The only sounds are those of the Soldiers marching down the street to the strains of the Star Spangled Banner being played by the local high school band.

This is my childhood Independence Day memory. Veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam marched down the street. It was the proudest moment of our little town. Every man, woman and child stopped whatever they were doing and pressed their hands over their hearts.

My parents and grandparents understood the sacrifices these men made, but not so for us children. All we knew was that these men had survived something that was greater than we could understand. We knew war meant fighting but we were too young to know what it really meant in the life of a Soldier.

We watched old, weathered men march slowly down the street. Some stood proud and some were stooped with age, but no one laughed or made a sound. They would stop marching and someone would raise the flag, and eyes would shine with tears as the old Soldiers would raise their hands to salute. There was never a prouder moment for us or them.

I stood watching them and my grandpa too. He had the same look on his face that the veterans had on theirs. It was a look of pride and anguish. I asked him once why he looked so happy and so sad all at the same time when the veterans marched down the street.

"Because, I made it and so did my friends," he said. "But some didn't."

At the time I didn't know what it meant when he said they didn't make it, and I thought it might not be a good idea to ask.

I'm an adult now and a Soldier myself. I'm the only one of my siblings to join the military service. I see those same veterans now and I know what it means. I know what it means to them when they march down the street, I know what it means when they salute the flag, and I know what my grandpa meant when some made it and some didn't.

For more than 200 years we have celebrated the birth of this country, and on certain holiday's we celebrate soldiers, but on Independence day we celebrate the birth of our nation, the Soldiers those who fought for that birth, and the flag that represents this country.

So when Independence Day comes around this year, remember that the United States was founded on the shoulders of the men and women who marched onto the battlefield before they retired and marched down the route of a parade.

Don't forget them in your holiday celebration. Say a thank you to those men and women who fought and died so that you could stand with your children while they enjoy watching a parade.

Page last updated Wed July 2nd, 2008 at 18:45