Veterans aim to keep the true spirit of Independence Day alive

It’s more than just celebrating the United States’ birthday — it’s also about recognizing the individuals who fought for the freedom that keeps the nation alive.

Veterans residing in Southern Sussex County express their feelings about Independence Day and the local celebrations that revolve around it.

Keeping Fourth of July traditions alive is a major concern of Vietnam War veteran John Mitchell, the chaplain of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7234. He and Post Commander Fulton Loppatto said Bethany Beach does a great job in upholding the importance of the holiday.

Mitchell, an Ocean View native, served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam for a year, from February of 1968 to February of 1969. Loppatto, originally from New York City but who now resides in Bethany Beach, also fought in the Vietnam War, as a citizen-soldier in the Army for 13 months.

“Bethany Beach has one of the finest parades for a small town, with several veterans’ groups participating,” Loppatto said.

Loppatto has helped organize the Bethany Beach parade for the past 12 years. He has been participating in the parade for the past two years. Loppatto said he prefers to walk in the parade and hug fellow veterans. He also has given out VFW 7234 pins to thank them for their service.

The veterans have been sharing a float with the National Guard for several years now. Mitchell noted that many of the National Guardsmen who participated in prior Bethany parades have served in Iraq or in Afghanistan.

Last year, the Veteran-National Guard float actually won the float decoration competition, Mitchell pointed out.

It is an honor for the veterans to have the opportunity to be recognized in the parade, said Mitchell. He added that he has enjoyed seeing numerous people cheering and waving at the float in the past. He said he really liked the fact that so many members of the community, along with visitors, came to show so much support for all of the different groups participating in the event.

“Bethany Beach has grown and become more mature,” Mitchell said.

Both of the veterans shared a common notion that it is important for young people to remember and respect veterans. Mitchell said he felt as though many everyday people these days only recognize holidays such as the Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Veterans Day as long weekends that excuse them from work or school.

That is a key reason why Mitchell and Loppatto enjoy the Bethany Beach parade, they said, because they feel that the parade, in particular, does a good job conserving the true meaning of Independence Day.

Loppatto said that, even though Independence Day is not directly geared toward veterans, people should actually recognize that veterans have helped to keep the true meaning of the Fourth of July alive through fighting for the nation’s freedom.

“On the Fourth, we, as veterans of the greatest nation on Earth, take great pride that we served as a soldier on the front lines to continue to provide these freedoms for our fellow citizens,” Loppatto said.

Kids expect this Fourth of
July to go off with a bang

Fireworks seem to be the crowd favorite amongst children ranging from toddlers to teenagers residing or visiting areas in southern Sussex County.

The Fourth of July is seemingly one of the busiest time periods during the summer season, especially in the beach towns, and many families from the area or visiting it will be attending or celebrating Fourth of July-themed festivities throughout the week. With that influx of families, there will also be an increase in children partaking in the events.

A common go-to destination amongst families in the area is the fireworks shows that can be seen throughout several days of the week in multiple locations, such as Bethany Beach, Rehoboth, Millsboro and Ocean City, Md. For many children, the fireworks is the highlight of the holiday.

The fireworks show has also directly and indirectly brought families together in the past, an idea suggested by 8-year-old Aiyden from Newark, Del. Aiyden said he was staying with his great-grandmother in the area during the Fourth of July last year and has recently enjoyed being able to spend time at her house.

“After we go to the fireworks, we go to [his great-grandmother’s] house and get dessert,” Aiyden said.

His grandmother said she was glad that she had the opportunity to spend more time with her grandson.

Marleigh from Millville, 4, said she likes to see the fireworks every year. Her mother added that, for the past two years they have been trying to see the show, but, unfortunately, Marleigh’s 2-year-old sister, Lilli, has gotten frightened by the loud noises in the past. Their mom is hoping that, this year, Lilli will be old enough to be able to enjoy the fireworks as much as her sister does.

Teenagers such as Nolan, a 13-year-old living South Bethany, have also enjoyed the fireworks shows. Nolan said he really enjoys going to the parade that takes place in Bethany. He also mentioned that he, too, enjoyed the fireworks show, and it was his favorite part of the events surrounding the holiday.

“We wait till the fireworks go off and then come to the beach and watch them,” Nolan said.

Younger children have also recognized that the Fourth of July is more than just a long weekend or a fireworks show. Phoebe, 6, is residing in South Bethany for the summer. She said it’s about celebrating winning the Revolutionary War.

The older teens seemed to be especially patriotic. Emily, 18, said she expresses her love for America by wearing Fourth of July-themed apparel in remembrance of how the country started. She and her older sister, Christine, enthusiastically stated that they love America very much.

“We love the Fourth of July,” the sisters both said.