OTTUMWA — Ottumwans remembered what Independence Day is truly about at a ceremony to honor those who have served and are fighting for this country.
A small crowd circled around the veterans’ memorial in Ottumwa Park Thursday morning, as officials spoke about the holiday, its history and what it stands for.
Mayor Frank Flanders said he, as well as other elected officials, can only do what they do thanks to the “brave men and women who have faced danger and death many times in our history” to provide the freedoms we all enjoy.
“As servants of the public, we’re elected by the people and for the people, and it’s a position I’m very honored to hold,” he said. “All of the elected offices and rights we have are because of the people we’re here to honor today.”
Those who have served the United States are often not remembered or honored as much as they should be, Flanders said, giving days like Independence Day that much more power and meaning.
Veterans of Foreign Wars of Iowa state commander Larry Winthers reminded the crowd of the history behind July 4 and what it means for everyone today and for generations to come.
“Today we celebrate the most important beginning in American history,” he said. “It was a world where men were not equal, and citizens were subject to the king’s brash decisions.”
But thanks to the bravery of a few, freedom was granted to all, he said.
He pointed out the Boy Scouts, who stood at attention throughout the entire ceremony.
“These are your next leaders,” he said.
Brian Morgan, who organized the Fourth of July Family Jamboree for the second year in a row, also agreed that often people forget that the holiday is not just a day off work, but it has a greater meaning.
“Memorial Day is to honor those who’ve fallen, and Veteran’s Day is for all veterans,” he said. “But sometimes we forget all the soldiers who were common farmers who helped free us from tyranny.”
“I truly feel indebted to you guys,” he said to the veterans gathered at the ceremony. “You went and did what you did so that we wouldn’t have to.”
Morgan became choked up as he recited, “Ragged Old Flag,” made famous by singer Johnny Cash.
“She’s getting threadbare and she’s wearing thin,
But, she’s in good shape for the shape she’s in,
Because she’s been through the fire before,
I believe she can take a whole lot more.”
— To follow reporter Chelsea Davis on Twitter, head to @ChelseaLeeDavis.
The Fourth of July Family Jamboree will continue all day Friday at the Jimmy Jones Shelter in Ottumwa Park. Noon: Raydio Flyer 1 p.m.: Double Dose 2 p.m.: Gary Fisher & Co. 3 p.m.: Fine Line Bluegrass 4 p.m.: Double Dose 5 p.m.: Raydio Flyer 6 p.m.: Bluegrass Blondies 7 p.m.: Sleepy Hollow 9 p.m.: Gary Fisher & Co.