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Vets mark SK 4th of July

Fireworks light up the Port Orchard waterfront during the Fathoms o
Fireworks light up the Port Orchard waterfront during the Fathoms o'Fun Fourth of July celebration.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/Staff photo

Click here to see a slideshow of Fourth of July photos from Port Orchard.

Photos by Jesse Beals and Aaron Burkhalter

American folk band Memory Lane filled the halls of the Washington State Veterans Home at Retsil with the sounds of acoustic guitar and harmonica Wednesday during a Fourth of July celebration.

Residents walked or wheeled their way into a common area to hear folk, blues and country songs of America’s roots. The residents clapped and sang along with Memory Lane’s Bobby Taylor, on harmonica, and Patrick Haggerty, on guitar, during the first of several holiday activities — residents enjoyed music and entertainment during the day and a dance in the evening.

The celebration was not quite the fireworks and carnival rides of Port Orchard’s Fathoms o’Fun celebration, but Independence Day carries special meaning for those who served the nation’s various branches of the military.

“Being in the military and the Fourth of July fit right together,” Retsil resident Trish N. Hurley said. “The Fourth of July means a lot to me. It means our freedom and togetherness.”

Hurley, 65, served as a courier in the Vietnam War. As a Port Orchard native, she decided to retire at Retsil, where she serves as a resident community relations volunteer.

To Hurley, Independence day is when veterans like herself can celebrate the accomplishments of the armed forces. Hurley’s mood is more positive on Independence day than on Memorial Day’s somber mourning. On the Fourth, Hurley about for the military’s accomplishments.

“We did have good things come out of wars,” Hurley said. “I’d like to see a day without war, but that’s a long way away.”

Fellow Retsil resident Mel Brunk agreed that the holiday has special meaning, but for him, Independence Day holds difficult emotions — merely talking about his feelings about the United States and its flag brings tears to his eyes.

He said thinking about the time he served in the Coast Guard during the Korean War still gives him goosbumps.

“I think there’s a pride you can take being among these people,” Brunk said of his fellow residents.

The freedom celebrated on Independence Day, he said, comes with a cost paid by soldiers.

His family has produced generations of those soldiers, he said.

“My sons followed my footsteps into the service, my grandsons did, and I’m proud of them,” Brunk said.

He and Hurley hope civilians sitting back to enjoy the fireworks display in the Sinclair inlet thought about the contributions of enlisted soldiers.

“I would like to have people remember the freedom that they have and how they got it,” Brunk said.

Hurley said Retsil is full of those people, many of whom have no family with whom to share the holiday.

“That’s the hardest thing of any war, when you come home and you don’t have anything,” Hurley said.

But Hurley said the day is about loving each American, and celebrating independence. Being a U.S. resident, Hurley said, means getting to fight for different beliefs. Even as a veteran, she thinks about the soldiers as much as she does those who protest military action.

“If you don’t want war, fight against it. If you’re for it, fight for it,” Hurley said.

Hurley hopes civilians will remember the soldiers on this day, and recognize their work. She encourages civilians to shake the hand of anyone in uniform.

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