FORT SILL, Okla.-- This year's Fourth of July morning was cloudy at Fort Sill. Most roads were empty as people enjoyed the start of their four-day weekend.

However, a crowd gathered outside McNair Hall listening as the 77th U. S. Army Band played Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture," and cannons fired at the peak of the song to break the morning silence.

Fort Sill held its annual Fourth of July ceremony in celebration and remembrance of this nation's independence, the ideals this nation was built upon and the sacrifices thousands have made.

Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general, shared his thoughts on the meaning of Independence Day.

"We are … built on the ideals of freedom, justice, honor, mercy and hope," the general said. "The belief in these ideals has not faltered in our 237-year history of our great nation. The families of our nation continue to send their sons and daughters to defend this nation and for what it stands for. They are the reason the flag means so much. America's Army will always stand to guard and guarantee the freedom and our rights. This is our duty. We will and shall prevail."

The event kicked off with a parade of families pulling kids in wagons, kids riding bikes and Costello's Own playing bagpipes; all following Uncle Sam, who led the parade up Randolph Road to the ceremony.

During the ceremony, there was also a salute to the union and U.S. territories. Soldiers marched in a line in front of the crowd with all 50 state and U.S. territory flags in hand. Then each flag was raised one-by-one, and field artillerymen from B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 2nd FA "Big Deuce" fired a 105mm howitzer cannon for each state.

McDonald ended his speech and the ceremony with words of appreciation to all those who have served.

"Thanks to our families who support our Soldiers as they defend freedom against those who would see it taken away from us. Thanks to our veterans who have answered the call and safeguarded our independence. Thanks to the 60,000 Soldiers today men and women still in Afghanistan ensuring that we remain on track as a nation. And, thanks to those men and women who cannot be here to celebrate because they paid the ultimate price."