July Fourth Celebrations Honor Veterans; Kuwait Donates to Cause
Undated (AP) _ Americans heeding President Bush’s call to make this Fourth of July a tribute to veterans of Desert Storm held parades and fireworks displays with a Gulf War theme, and Kuwait even helped bankroll one event with $10,000.
The celebration began early, with a number of marches and fireworks shows getting under way on Wednesday. Many more were planned for today.
In Tallahassee, Fla., captured Iraqi equipment was to be displayed at a parade. ″We said we were going to have a shindig, and I think it’s going to be a wing-dang-do,″ Gov. Lawton Chiles said Wednesday as he climbed atop a tank in front of the governor’s mansion.
In Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was adopted 215 years ago, parade organizers made last-minute arrangements for today’s activities after Kuwait came through with $10,000 to help cover the cost.
Vietnam veterans planned to exchange POW-MIA flags with their Desert Storm comrades. ″This solemn passing of the colors will make our parade more meaningful than any other,″ said parade coordinator Robert McMahon.
Across the country, millions also prepared for a round of good old- fashioned fun, with barbecues and trips to the beach the order of the day.
Santa Monica Beach near Los Angeles was expected to be jammed. The forecast was for hot weather, and a huge fireworks show was scheduled for dawn.
An explosion at a fireworks show in Chicago Heights, Ill., injured at least 11 people Wednesday, authorities said. Several were hospitalized, including children ages 1 and 2.
After the allied victory over Iraq, Bush urged Americans in March to make July Fourth ″a day of special celebration for our returning troops ... a holiday they’ll never forget.″
Columbia, S.C., did just that on Wednesday. More than 50,000 people lined the capital’s main thoroughfare in a sea of red, white and blue to honor returning troops. An estimated 5,000 soldiers paraded past the cheering crowd.
Avonell Sloane shouted, ″Thank you 3/8″ as the troops passed. ″The Fourth has always been special, but being able to lend them emotional and moral support during the war has helped make this one even more special,″ she said.
Vietnam War veterans led a parade in Omaha, Neb. Mayor P.J. Morgan said the honor helped make up for the lack of respect he said the soldiers were shown when they returned from their war.
In Sutherland, Neb., this year’s celebration also marked the city’s 100th birthday. Debbie Soderholm placed 24 American flags outside her home. ″I’ve always been patriotic,″ she said.
In Edmond, Okla., 25 immigrants became Americans just in time to get in on the celebration. They took their oaths of citizenship, then held a Fourth of July picnic a day early.
In Charleston, West Va., today’s celebration almost took place without 33 veterans of the Gulf War. Military officials had mistakenly sent them from Camp Pendleton, Calif., to Charleston, S.C. The West Virginia National Guard sent a cargo plane to fetch the Marine reservists.