07/03/07 — Flags will be waving

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Flags will be waving

By Lee Williams
Published in News on July 3, 2007 1:46 PM

Independence Day.

It's not just about fireworks, getting a day off from work or toiling over a hot barbecue grill.

It's about celebrating the day America won its freedom from British rule more than two centuries ago.

But, more importantly, the Fourth of July is also about honoring the many servicemen and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that Americans can continue to live free.

That's what several Wayne County residents want local residents to remember as they celebrate the Fourth of July holiday this Wednesday.

The word Independence still sends chills up Dennis Lewis' spine when he reflects on the term. It's not a word he uses lightly, the 46-year-old Pikeville resident said.

"Independence means the sum of countless soldiers giving their lives, arms, legs, eyes and their minds for the freedom that I enjoy," Lewis said. "A good friend of mine, (the late Retired Air Force) Col. Jim Hiteshew told me 'Never forget the freedoms you enjoy have been paid for by someone else's sacrifice, and that's what every citizen should never forget.'"

Pikeville Mayor Herb Sieger, a World War II veteran, agrees.

Sieger, 85, served in the U.S. Air Force from 1940-45. During the war, many of the airmen he fought with did not come home, so the word is quite significant to him, too.

"It has a special meaning because this was an era when so many laid down their lives for this country," he said.

But, he added, the true meaning of Independence Day has been lost.

"I think the message has gotten away from the people," he said. "Whoever thinks it hasn't, I don't think they're being honest with themselves."

Bill Graham, a 57-year-old Vietnam veteran who served with the U.S. Navy Seabees from 1968-74, shares that sentiment. Graham is the commander of the Disabled Veterans Chapter 45 in Goldsboro.

"The message has been lost in a lot of youths today, and it's up to our generation to teach our youths what the Fourth of July is all about. That it's much more than about hamburgers and hotdogs," Graham said.

Joe D'Eufemia, 60, of Goldsboro piggybacked off of Graham's comment. He added that it's easy for young people to take their lives for granted because they simply don't understand what others went through to protect the freedoms they enjoy today.

He tells young men and women why they should respect the American flag -- it stands for something.

D'Eufemia, a former Marine, knows that independence cannot be taken for granted. D'Eufemia, a helicopter door gunner was wounded in the Vietnam War in 1968 while protecting the freedom of others. For his valor, D'Eufemia won the coveted Purple Heart medal.

Because of his service and the work of other servicemen and women around the world, Americans have the freedom of choice, he said.

"We are free to become anything we wish we want to become in America," he said. "So many soldiers have died in other soils so that there will not be war on our land. That's what's going on in Iraq. They are fighting the war in Iraq so that there will not be a war over here."

That's why he firmly supports the troops in Iraq.

"Personally, I feel what we are doing today is going to prevent World War III," he said.

Tech Sgt. Bill Forsythe is a recruiter for the U.S. Air Force. In his line of work, he is always prepared to preach the merits of defending America's flag and protecting its freedom to local youths.

Forsythe also understands the freedom choices bring. In the United States, he said, Americans have the ability to choose their own career path, their own destiny. He thinks about that every day.

"I feel every time when I stand in front of the flag at attention. I think about the people who died for our freedom," Forsythe said.

As a recruiter, Forsythe has to tell young men and women why they should become airmen.

"Some join just to serve their country," Forsythe said while seated in the recruiting office at 1310 Parkway Drive. "I've had several young people who said they joined because it's their responsibility to serve their country. It's important that we have the freedom to do what we are doing. Thank God we have young men and women that serve so that we can continue to enjoy all the freedoms we enjoy."

Daniel Letchworth, 19, of Goldsboro, recently joined the U.S. Air Force -- for the sole purpose of protecting America's freedom from foreign enemies.

Letchworth graduated from Southern Wayne High School in 2006 and as soon as he was able -- he signed up. His father, David Letchworth, a former U.S. Army soldier, was very supportive of his decision to join.

For this young man, it wasn't a chore. It was something that he had to do.

"I felt like it was my duty as a U.S. citizen to join the Air Force and serve my country," said Letchworth who recently completed boot camp and technical school for ground radio specialists. "I've always liked politics and watching the news. And since 9/11, I didn't like people sitting back and complaining about it. I wanted to actually to do something about it."