By SEAN CW KORSGAARD
For many, Independence Day offers a chance to spend time with thier families, some time on the grill, and maybe enjoy some fireworks.
For the soldiers at Fort A.P. Hill, the sailors at Dahlgren Naval base, and the many servicemen and veterans that call Hanover, Caroline, and King George County home, their plans aren’t too different, though most of them had gained a greater appreciation for what they’re celebrating for.
Spc. Brandon Johnson certainly had – Johnson is is a culinary specialist in the Army Reserve, and is a resident of King George County, and is planning to spend the Fourth of July with his family, having been denied the opportunity to do so last year.
“Last year, I was in AIT during the Fourth of July, and I wasn’t able to see my family or leave post, which is always hard,” said Johnson. “This year I guess I’m making up for lost time, spending time with my dad and my brothers, steaming up some crabs, just try to enjoy myself before drill next weekend.”
Ted Haenlein, a retired Lt. Cmdr. in the Coast Guard who served from 1972 until 1996, settled down in King George County not long after he retired, spent the morning at the Port Royal Independence Day Celebration, and was making plans to have lots of family and friends over in the evening.
“We’re having 35 people come out to the house this afternoon, and we’re gonna have an old fashioned American barbecue,” said Heanlein. “I’ve got all kinds of roasts smoking already, lots of kids in the pool, and maybe tonight we’ll have a bonfire, depends if it’s too dry.”
Over in Caroline County, John Stirn, a Ruther Glen resident and Army veteran who served in the Gulf War as a soldier in the 2nd Armored Division, made plans for something a litte smaller, hoping to enjoy a neighborhood block party.
“We have a little neighborhood thing that we helped put together, gonna have the neighbors over, and enjoy the day,” said Stirn. “A little small, but very personal, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Meanwhile in Hanover County a recently discharged US Marine is just happy to be home again, enjoying some long overdue rest and relaxation.
Montpelier resident Clark Serfass enlisted in the Marine Corps after graduating from Patrick Henry High School in 2012, serving as a TOW gunner, and seeing action against ISIS during a tour of duty in the Middle East.
Now that he’s home, he says he’s looking to start college courses at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, and is still mulling over long term careers now that he’s out of the Corps, but for Independence Day, the only thing he’s focused on is spending time with his family and cooking some steaks.
“My nieces are in town for the holiday, and I’m spending a lot of time playing with them in between manning the grill,” said Serfass. “I’m going to take it easy, relax, and enjoy the little things for a bit.”
The common thing shared by each of them? A love of family, a love of country, and gratitude that they have the opportunity to spend time celebrating them both.
“Cherish your freedom, and the folks back home,” said Stirn. “That’s what you learn in the military, and it’s what we celebrate every Independence Day.”