The reason I can’t celebrate 4th of July.
Gideon D. Asche
I don’t celebrate the 4th of July. Oh, I used to show up to parties and pretend, but as my social skills have waned I quit participating in social gatherings.
Years ago, my wife made the assumption that it had to do with the sound of fireworks and I just never told her any differently. Sure, there are times the sound startles me and I react, but most the time I don’t really care if there are bombs bursting in air.
It is the day itself, for which I have animosity.
As I reflect on my past there is but one 4th of July that crosses my memory and as hard as I try, I can’t conjure up the memory of any other 4th of July – just the one.
It was a U.S. Embassy picnic in Rome in the early ’60s, I was about to turn 10. There were maybe 75 people there, plus approx. 25 Marines, some there for the party; some, as always, were watching over us.
I will share with you one irrefutable fact … There is nothing that will make a child more incorrigible than the feeling of invincibility having men like Gunny Jim and Gunny Chef within earshot 24/7 gives you.
Anytime I’m in DC, I make time to have a beer and a shot with Gunny Chef, then I mosey on down the wall, making a stop to tip one with Gunny Jim, then I finish the bottle at Panel 8E, with the real reason I don’t celebrate the 4th of July.
Embassy picnics were always a blast; food, fun, and merriment – “Mr. Fred” (Amb. Reinhardt) was the most sociable Ambassador I have ever known, he was like Kissinger only you could understand him when he talked to you. I think all the embassy kids liked Mr. Fred, I know I did.
I was with one of the Marines, he was showing me how dry ice would melt and leave no moisture in the beer cooler when The Ambassador’s Limo pulled up and his escort scurried off to find my parents. Both of my parents got into Mr. Fred’s limo and, to my surprise, left without me.
I was gonna run to the limo; I was always glad to see Mr. Fred. He let the Marines teach me to shoot an M-14 before I was 9 and arranged for my first flight in a Helicopter, resulting in my first love.
Gunny Jim stopped me; he stood me at attention.
It wasn’t uncommon for me to push things and end up standing at attention while one of the Marines set me straight. But, I was puzzled, I knew hadn’t done anything wrong, at least nothing worthy of a dressing down.
Gunny Jim explained why the Ambassador was taking my parents with him. My father’s security was informed long before he was.
My mother had earned her first Gold Star. Sadly, it would not be her last.
I was glad it was Gunny Jim who told me, he was my Superman and Batman all rolled into one most of my early childhood. The day I was told Gunny Jim was gone was almost as traumatic as that 4th of July. His name is on the wall a few Panels to the west of my brother.
For me, this is the memory the 4th of July brings up. No one needs me dampening their celebrations, so I stay home and I tip several to our dead.
That event took place over 50 years ago; the wound still festers.
I promise you I’m not the only one…there are mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers out there who hate every such holiday – Every 4th, every Veterans Day, every Memorial Day and even Christmas and birthdays. They silently grieve the day that Black Military Sedan stopped at their door.
That Black Military Sedan came for my mother one more time; by then I already had my own set of shiny Paratrooper Wings. No one had to call me to attention when my father was killed.
This year as you are enjoying the festivities and fireworks consider that neighbor, the single mother next door or the old guy down the street who never takes part and contemplate the reasons why.
Consider the guy next door when you fire off that mortar, maybe warn him or invite him. He’ll tell you no, but in truth, neither of us really want to be alone on the 4th of July; It is just the only way we know to deal with it.