The Fourth of July has always held a special place in my heart, not just because it’s the celebration day of a resolution separating this great nation from Great Britain, but because it also marks the birthdays of two men who were a big part of my life.

My paternal grandfather was born July 3, 1919. He loved to barbecue chicken and was quite the cut-up. My grandparents lived in Caruthersville, Missouri until they moved to Avon Park, so they never lived close enough to us to spend a lot of time with until we also moved to Avon Park during my junior year in high school.

He died shortly after I graduated from high school. His small frame made even thinner from the cancer that ravaged his body and the medicines that he took to try to battle it.

Grandpa wasn’t my biological grandfather, but he made the choice to adopt my dad soon after he turned 3 so Grandpa Daniel will always be considered my grandpa. My biological grandfather was what I considered a very special bonus!

My maternal grandfather was born July 4, 1897. He was a very humble, God-fearing man. My mom was the youngest of six kids and by the time she was born, my grandparents were what I guess can be considered “more mature parents.”

Grandpa outlived my grandmother by several years. He died in 1994, but at least he was able to meet one of my children before passing. In fact, I have pictures of him sitting in a rocking chair at my parents house holding my daughter when she was a baby. With as many grandchildren and great-grandchildren he had, I don’t think I know of a single time when he didn’t love holding those babies.

And speaking of grand men, I was contacted last week by Kim Albritton who was telling me about a visit between herself, her mom Marty and Elsa Kahn recently. Knowing how patriotic the Kahns are, Marty had printed a copy of a poem written by her husband to give to Elsa and her husband, Marvin. As Kim read the poem out loud, the ladies both expressed how the poem was perfect for this time in history. The poem is written on July 4, 2005 by Russ Albritton Jr.

INDEPENDENCE DAY

My kids gave me a patriotic shirt.

I wear it today with pride.

For I know I live in the greatest of countries

Where freedom is always on my side.

I’m proud to have served my Country.

I still get a chill when I see the flag raised.

I’m happy to sing the Star Spangled Banner,

And yes, we should always make sure our heroes are praised.

Let’s not forget the fallen ones either,

They fought to keep this Country free.

I thank God for the courage he gave them,

Their lives paved a road of democracy for you and me.

July 4th is Independence Day.

We celebrate with fireworks and a parade.

But do we ever stop and seek out its true meaning,

Or do we simply believe it to be a charade.

I urge you to take it seriously this year,

Enjoy the day – yet remember the past.

Give thanks to those who brought it about

And make your own commitment to make it last.

Independence Day!

A tear does come to my eye.

Now I thank God I’m a free American,

And yes – I know the reason why.

Russ Albritton, Jr.

July 4, 2005

Romona Washington is executive editor of the Highlands News-Sun. Contact her via email at romona.washington@highlandsnewssun.com