If there’s one point Tom Huxtable wanted to make to an audience of about 75 people Friday afternoon, it’s that July 4 has more meaning than simply a date on the calendar.
“We don’t celebrate the Fourth of July,” said Huxtable, a Marine veteran. “What we celebrate is Independence Day. … Haven’t we lost the meaning of the holiday if we call it the Fourth of July?”
Huxtable’s remarks came as part of an Independence Day service at Veterans Memorial Park downtown. The 30-minute service, organized by Veterans Memorial Park of Wichita Inc., is the second one the organization has held annually, said Huxtable, Veterans Memorial Park Inc. vice chairman. The Independence Day service is in addition to separate services the group has held for years on Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
In underscoring a broader recognition of the date as a celebration of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Huxtable asked the audience to “change the thought processes” and refer to the day as Independence Day. “And we can do that beginning today,” he said.
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The service also included a brief speech by Lt. Commander Kyle Horlacher, commanding officer of the Navy Reserve unit in Wichita, who spoke largely on the service that men and women in his unit, and Americans in general, have provided the U.S. in times of war.
“Through memorials and events like this, we are reminded that we must never forget,” Horlacher said.
Among those in attendance were Brian Gartland and his girlfriend Tia Hill. Gartland said he learned of the service from Hill, who lives in the nearby Riverside neighborhood. “It’s important to celebrate” the veterans on Independence Day, said Gartland, who has served for six years as a cavalry scout in the Kansas Army National Guard.
Bob Rogers said he attends every formal service that the Veterans Memorial Park group puts on at the park.
Rogers served with the Army’s 101st Airborne in World War II between 1943 and 1946 and was twice injured in combat in Europe. Rogers posted himself next to the shiny granite World War II monument before and after the service. He was keen on pointing out to visitors the backside of the monument, which bears the inscription “Kilroy was here,” and the caricature of a bald-headed man poking his long nose over a wall.
Rogers said he was impressed with the turnout on Friday.
“I think there’s been more patriotism shown the last couple or three years than since World War II,” he said.