For veterans, Independence Day is a reminder of a country worth fighting for
LUTZ (FOX 13) - Independence Day can have a different meaning for different people. It can mean a time for loved ones to gather. It can mean a large fireworks display to celebrate America's independence.
In Lutz, they have been hosting a Fourth of July parade since 1912. A life-long Lutz resident, Lester Osteen, is a Korean War veteran, who was in attendance. He is also a proud American, and has even spent the past Memorial Day waving a U.S. flag in his full uniform along U.S. 41 in Lutz.
Lester said it was tough making friends knowing they may not return home with him. One of the more vivid memories he held onto was when he received a box of fruitcake and cigars. He decided to share it with five other men.
"We cut that fruitcake and six guys cried like babies eating that fruitcake," he recalled while choking back his own tears, "like I'm doing right now. But it brought back memories of home."
Bill Montgomery served in the Vietnam War, and continues to serve and support his fellow veterans through an organization called "Marine Forever." Veterans meet with their loved ones at a restaurant and plan for events. They also collect funds for veteran who may need financial help or for scholarships.
"It's just a wonderful thing. We go to nursing homes...and we help them with their Bingo every month," he explained. "You can't go anywhere without someone saying...'Hoorah!'"
For Don Clough, also a Korean War veteran, he shares a birthday with America. He also says it's a reminder of the beginning of a brand new country. He tells FOX 13 he was in the Marine Corps and part of the first wave during the Inchon Landing.
He recalls that the Koreans were well prepared for the war. They had foxholes and sandbags, making it difficult for the U.S. tanks to drive over.
And they were waiting for him.
"We were having a rough time that day," Clough explained. "(They) shot me in the face, blew away my entire lip, gum and six teeth."
He spent at least two years in the hospital, but if he had to choose to fight in the Korean War again, he would.
"I really enjoyed the Marine Corps," Cloud said, "and I'd do it all over again."