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Remembering A Special Fourth Of July!

Aug 18, 2007
The evening sun was a burnt orange ball sliding beneath the horizon on Pensacola Bay. Various aromas of hamburgers, smoked sausages, boiled corn and barbequed ribs filled the park. Just across the street in the bay, a barge was anchored in the water which would provide fireworks for the night. Even an occasional whiff of sweat and suntan oil from hundreds of mingled bodies simmering in the late afternoon evening sun added to the anticipation of tonight's program.

Home of the Pensacola Naval Air Station, there was very little standing room as the huge crowd listened to local and military dignitaries give mini-speeches about America and the sacrifices our young men and women had undergone in order to maintain Kuwait's freedom and ultimately our own.

This Fourth of July celebration was a short time after the last gulf war; the one that officially lasted only a few days. The USS Saratoga had recently come home to a hero's welcome! My son, a naval corpsman was one of those who had been on the ground in Saudi and Kuwait for almost a year. The Navy and the city of Pensacola were going all out on this Independence Day weekend! It was an experience I recall every year about this time, and hope that I'll be able to experience that same sense of unbridled patriotism that was so apparent that holiday weekend over a decade ago.

The event was held in Pensacola's Veterans Memorial Park, on Bay Boulevard and was open to everyone. The festivities began by the presentation of meritorious awards of various kinds, to service men and civilians alike. I recall eating a Bratwurst and chatting with a lady whose son had just returned from the gulf. She had tears in her eyes as she spoke proudly of him and verbally thanked God for his safe return. He spotted her, waved and made his way through the crowd to her side. She introduced him to my son and me. The two boys immediately it off and excused themselves and headed to the beer tent.

Battles are fought by young men and women, but for the most part are started by old men. I, like many others through the ages, have wondered how many wars we would have if the situation was reversed and old men fought the wars instead of the young. It would indeed be interesting if those who initiated those conflicts were obligated to put on a uniform and fight along side those they've sent in harm's way. We'd probably have very few wars.

The Pensacola Symphony Orchestra had now taken the stage and was warming up. The crowd, larger than ever, quieted down as the musicians began the program with a brisk "Stars and Stripes forever!" John Philip Sousa would have been proud. The band and music seemed to last only a few minutes before the conductor announced that as a finale, they would play Tchaikovsky's "1812" overture.

Having been in the band both in high school and college, this was one of my favorite works by the old master, even though according to musical historians, he didn't much like the way this great piece of music turned out. While it was written as a tribute to the Russian army for stopping the French led by Napoleon in a battle that occurred outside Moscow in 1812, it's now played at many Independence Day celebrations here in the United States.

This was to be no ordinary performance. The overture as written was to have cannon shots and cymbals crashing, depicting both the French and Russian armies fighting with swords and firepower. The fireworks barge out in the bay provided that accompaniment!

This was the first time I had seen a synchronized pyrotechnics computer program linked to the "1812 Overture", though I understand it's done quite often today. Gigantic rockets were sent up with resounding booms and crashes as if cannons were blasting from just over the next hill. The clanging of symbols, ringing of bells and blaring of horns represented the joy and happiness of the Russian people cheering their soldiers that had stopped the French invasion of their country!

As each intricate part of the music was played, the fireworks exploded with perfect timing. For such a memorable and boisterous piece of music, the crowd was strangely silent as the last strain of music was played and the last rocket made its way to the heavens.

The concert ended and I looked around for my son. He and the soldier he had met earlier were sitting on a bench together, somberly looking out over the bay, no doubt reliving the sounds of battle from their own overture.
About the Author
Bob Alexander is well experienced in outdoor cooking, fishing and leisure living. Bob is also the author and owner of this article. Visit his sites at:
http://www.redfishbob.com
http://www.bluemarlinbob.com
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