Fourth of July fest rainy but robust
CAMP RED CLOUD -- Their clothes dampened but not their spirits, more than 2,000 Area I Soldiers and family members defied a steady drizzle at Camp Casey July 4 to take part in a hootin,' hollerin,' red-white-and-blue celebration of America's independence.
There were carnival games, food-eating contests, a chili cook-off, face-painting, donkey rides, kite flying, a dunk tank, a bouncy castle, and a chance to sit under a big tent and eat barbecued chicken, pork, or hot dogs and the rest.
The final three hours or so saw a concert by the 2nd Infantry Division Band, remarks by senior leaders, a ceremonial Salute to the Nation, and performance of the 1812 Overture with the band accompanied by the booming guns of a howitzer battery.
The day ended with fireworks that soared swiftly skyward in shimmering trails of gold and burst high in the clouds in cascading streaks of red, orange, blue and green.
The stop-and-go rainfall started around 5:20 p.m. and was falling when things ended around 9:15 p.m.
Col. John M. Scott, Commander, USAG Red Cloud and Area I, made welcoming remarks.
"It's great to see all of you today on this glorious, weather-fun-filled 237th Independence Day," Scott joked.
Scott noted that besides celebrating American independence, "for us serving here in Korea we are in the midst of an important remembrance cycle" -- the 63rd anniversary of the July 25, 1950 outbreak of the Korean War and the 60th anniversary of the July 27, 1953 armistice that "brought peace to the Korean peninsula…"
Scott then introduced Maj. Gen. Thomas S. Vandal, Commanding General, 2nd Infantry Division.
Vandal too joked about the weather, turning to the band and its commander, Chief Warrant Officer 4 William Brazier.
"Second Infantry Division Band," Vandal said. "Now I heard a couple of squeaks today because I think you got some water in the clarinets. But Chief Brazier, I wanna give you credit for being here and the great music…and I want to particularly shout out to all the piccolo players," Vandal said, drawing chuckles from the audience.
During brief remarks, Vandal told the audience that Soldiers who now serve in South Korea are "linked" in spirit with that generation of Soldiers who fought for and won America's independence.
Capt. Bradford Criswell, his wife Melanie and two children were among those at the celebration.
Criswell is with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 70th Brigade Support Battalion, part of the division's 210th Fires Brigade.
"We just wanted to enjoy the festivities and get to see some of the other people that are here at Camp Casey, and see the performances, try a little bit of the food and just have a good time -- celebrate our independence, of course."
"I'm really grateful that they have something going on for us to celebrate," said Melanie Criswell. "Because some of the holidays lose some of their meaning when you aren't around family. So it's nice to help the community feel like a family and get everybody together to celebrate."
Machyco Ravenell was there with her three sons, ages 8, 7, and 1.
"We got here exactly at three and the kids have been in the bouncy, had some drinks and got some balloons," she said.
During the Salute to the Nation roll call, a howitzer battery fired one round for each of the 50 states and a final round for the six U.S. territories.
As each state was called, a Soldier bearing that state's flag moved smartly center-stage. Then, six Soldiers with the flags of the territories took the stage as a single formation.
The Soldiers of Battery B, 1st Battalion, 15th Field Artillery, also had a precision role in the band's performance of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.
Where the musical score calls for drums to simulate the crash of cannon, the Salute Battery provided the real thing -- firing carefully on cue round after booming round from their 75 mm pack howitzers -- 33 rounds in all.
The performance and its artillery enhancement had the audience shouting, whistling and cheering their approval.
"I liked it, my whole family liked it," said Sgt. Dean Jass, operations sergeant with Company C, 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion.
Jass and his family -- wife, mother-in-law, son, 13, and daughter, 4, arrived around 3 p.m. and stayed to the end.
His family waited with special eagerness for Wisconsin to be called.
"'Cause that's where I'm from," he said. "But everyone was hootin' and hollerin' for every flag too.
"This year was the first year that my wife and daughter got flowers from the Korean dancers," said Jass. "So it was enjoyable for them -- regardless of the weather."