KERRY HUBARTT: Honoring our military a big part of Independence Day holiday

Kerry Hubartt

Celebrating the birthday of America is also celebrating the U.S. armed forces who have been deployed around the world since our earliest battles for freedom to preserve the liberties we have continued to enjoy for 242 years.

Our July Fourth celebrations of choice the past few years have been the Philharmonic Patriotic Pops concerts at Parkview Field. This year’s was held Tuesday in hot, humid weather in a baseball park packed full of people listening to fantastic music, capped by spectacular fireworks.

As is always the case in the Phil’s free patriotic concerts, which they also held in five other counties, they pay tribute to those in attendance who have served in the Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard by having them stand for recognition as they play the songs of their particular branch of the Armed Forces.

Among many other selections played by the Philharmonic were film scores composed by John Williams. One was the theme of the 1989 movie, “Born on the Fourth of July,” a moving piece anchored by a haunting trumpet solo. The film depicts the real-life story based on the 1976 best-selling autobiography of Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic, who joined the Marines right out of high school, serving two tours of duty in Vietnam and coming home paralyzed after being shot.

The struggles of this Vietnam veteran, as with many of these special soldiers who came home to scorn and neglect rather than the heroes’ welcome of those who served in other great conflicts, made me grieve for them in particular.

A great friend of mine from Fort Wayne, who has lived in Florida for the past few decades, was one such veteran of that war that has been vilified along with those who served in it, as a meaningless and sometimes immoral intrusion by the U.S.

While not paralyzed or lacking limbs as a result of his front-line experience in the horrific conditions of South Vietnam jungles, my friend Ken came home with his own scars. Long after returning to civilian life, he would duck or drop to the floor if a car backfired. He would have nightmares. And he would struggle with the memories of trudging with his company through the marshes, stepping on dead bodies along the way. He has had to deal with the physical effects of being exposed to Agent Orange. And he would live with the horror of seeing one of his comrades shot in the head by the Viet Cong and witnessing the life seeping from his body.

Today, as with the experience of Kovic in “Born on the Fourth of July,” he has a very different view of war and cannot justify the sacrifices of American life in conflicts he feels are political and unnecessary.

And so I think of him when I see veterans being recognized at events like Tuesday’s Patriotic Pops concert or Wednesday’s Capitol Fourth Concert and the National Memorial Day Concert in May (both on PBS), which spotlight the heroes of war, so many of whom come back with devastating injuries and emotional and mental wounds that never heal.

And I feel a sense of guilt that I never had to serve and put my life on the line as they did. And I feel a greater sense of pride in what Ken and so many others have had to endure in the name of freedom and liberty around the world.

Thanks Ken.

Kerry Hubartt is former editor of The News-Sentinel.