By Maria-Jose Subiria
The loud bangs of fireworks reverberated through the air and the crowd at Gammon Field at Fort McPherson on Thursday night.
Spectators watched with excitement and appreciation as colorful blasts and sparks lit up the night sky, and spread out in various designs to cover it like a multicolored blanket.
Men and women in uniform, military veterans and civilian employees of the fort, all gathered to celebrate the Fourth of July early, -- on July 1 -- with their families and friends.
In explaining the early celebration, Kristin Gordon, of the Family, Morale, Welfare, Recreation Directorate at Fort McPherson, focused on history. "July 2, 1776 is the day that the Continental Congress actually voted for independence," she said. "John Adams, in his writings, even noted that July 2 would be remembered in the annals of American history and would be marked with fireworks and celebrations.
"The written Declaration of Independence," she said, "was dated July 4, but wasn't actually signed until Aug. 2."
Then she said that this is the third and final year the celebration will be conducted at the fort, since both Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem are scheduled to close in 2011, which suggests that Thursday night's celebration had an additional significance.
"Independence and pride in our country are what men and women of the United States Army strive to uphold and maintain for America," she continued. "We want to provide a quality of life commensurate with their level of service and sacrifice to our nation," said Gordon, indicating one reason why military officials wanted to make sure Thursday's event was available to the military community.
Those in attendance seemed to appreciate the gesture. "I am celebrating with my family for the first time in seven years," said Command Sgt. Maj. Karl Roberts, of the U.S. Army Garrison. "To be here with my family and enjoy this event is great."
Roberts said deployment duties prevented him from celebrating the nation's independence with his family previously. His wife, Eunice, said she is glad her husband is home.
"It's good, especially for the little one [son]," said Eunice Roberts. "This is more of an adventure for the little one. I like the family involvement."
In addition to the fireworks display at dusk, food, and special activities, such as a Ferris wheel, merry-go-around, Super Chair Chain Swing and a water slide were also available.
Lt. Col. Kevin Clark, of the U.S Army Forces Command, was waiting in line to board the Ferris wheel, with his wife and three children. Clark said he enjoys spending time with his family and the Fort McPherson community, to celebrate a significant U.S. holiday.
Fatja Clark, his wife, said she cherishes the time she spends with her husband and their two girls, ages 12 and 6, and their 8-year-old son.
"It's just fun to be with my family," interjected the couple's 12-year-old daughter, Iman.
Sgt. 1st Class Ronnie Reynolds, a medic at the Lawrence Joel Army Health Clinic at Fort McPherson, said the Fourth of July reminds him of why he enlisted in the U.S Army -- to fight for the freedom of this country.
James-Denton Wyllie, a spokesperson for Fort McPherson, said that, while the fort celebrates patriotic events -- which include the Fourth of July -- members of the military take the opportunity to remember their fallen, or absent, fellow soldiers.
"We don't [actually] have to have specific moments to remember," he said. "It's omni-present ...
"Patriotism, by definition, is love for your country," Wyllie said. "The way soldiers show it is by physically putting [their] bodies in harm's way, which is an amazing thing."
Wyllie said military families also show patriotism by taking care of their children, while their husbands or wives are away in the line of duty. "We [the U.S Army] do things like this," he said, "because soldiers cannot do it alone."