Fort Riley, Kansas

 

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Fort Riley, Junction City celebrate freedom

By Amanda Kim Stairrett | 1ST INF. DIV. PUBLIC AFFAIRS | July 24, 2014

JUNCTION CITY – Holidays like Independence Day just mean a little more in a military community.

Absolutely, retired Col. John Seitz said. Junction City is home to so many military families and its citizens have experienced the deployments, redeployments, hardships and unfortunate losses of friends, he added.

“And so, it’s very important for a community like this,” he said of the July 4 holiday.

Junction City hosted its annual Independence Day celebration – Sundown Salute – July 2 to 5, drawing thousands to the community for four days of family activities that included concerts, a carnival, a 5K Fun Run, a Freedom Run 10K, a parade and fireworks.

Hundreds of 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley Soldiers marched in the July 4 parade, representing every unit on post.

Members of the 1st Inf. Div. Band and Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard joined Staff Sgt. David Nakasone of the 84th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion, 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Inf. Div., to lead the parade. Nakasone was recently named the “Big Red One” Noncommissioned Officer of the Year after competing with several of the top sergeants from across the division.

While a time of celebration, the community also hosted a solemn Veterans Ceremony at Heritage Park to recognize the service and sacrifices of those who serve and served.

Brig. Gen. Sean P. Swindell, the 1st Inf. Div. deputy commanding general for maneuver, served as the ceremony’s guest speaker, and offered his heartfelt appreciation to the community.

“I’m so pleased to be celebrating the Fourth of July with you all this year in the nation’s heartland and right here in Junction City,” he said. “We at the 1st Inf. Div. and Fort Riley are grateful to you for your enduring support. As you know, the post has faced deployments, redeployments and other changes facing the post. You have been there through all of them, supporting our troops and supporting our families.”

July 4 is a celebration of the freedoms and independence Americans share and defend, Swindell went on to say.

“As we celebrate our independence and freedom today, however, let us always be mindful -- freedom isn’t free,” he said. “It was bought at a very high price of human lives when a rag tag Army of colonists took on the tyranny of one of the most powerful nations in the world at that time and won. All Americans can draw a straight line from the free lives we live today to the one moment when the world changed forever. From that day in 1776, freedom has had a home. Freedom has had a defender. Unlike any other country, America came into this world with a message for mankind: that all men are created equal and all men are meant to be free.”

Seitz praised the men and women in uniform at Fort Riley.

“They make us proud to be Junction City residents and have such great Soldiers around us,” he said.

Explaining to outsiders the relationship between the 1st Inf. Div., Fort Riley and Junction City communities isn’t an easy task, Seitz added.

“It’s something you have to live to understand,” he said. 

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