CHARLOTTE, N.C. — July Fourth in 2021 is becoming a time of renewed hope for the U.S.
According to a recent Associated Press article, President Joe Biden is encouraging nationwide celebrations for Independence Day as a way to "mark the country's effective return normalcy after 16 months of coronavirus pandemic disruption and more than 600,000 lives lost."
With an added emphasis on a return to normalcy from COVID-19, the holiday itself is not changing. It is a time for the country to celebrate independence, and recognize the men and women preserving freedoms - past, present and future.
The Independence Fund is a national agency "committed to empowering our nation’s catastrophically wounded, injured, or ill Veterans to overcome physical, mental, and emotional wounds incurred in the line of duty," and has a presence in the Charlotte area.
Sam Johnson, executive vice president for The Independence Fund, said this year is even important for the agency as they work to provide events for the group.
“We really feel that our ‘secret sauce’ is social connectiveness and getting veterans, their caregivers and their families back together,” Johnson said. “Through the pandemic, we haven’t been able to do that. Very recently, in April, was our first real in-person event of 2021. As we come into the Fourth of July holiday... we’re just really excited to get folks back together to celebrate safely, but to also bring people back together to have that social connectiveness.”
One topic that can be brought up during this time of the year is fireworks and veterans with PTSD.
A report from the United States Marines Corps - Marine Corps Community Services webpage brings up the topic and encourages people to celebrate the holiday, or with fireworks in general during a celebration, as normal, but use the time to raise awareness for veterans in the community. The report also lists several links to help people who may struggle with PTSD.
Johnson said The Independence Fund is hoping to break a narrative that "veterans are broken," when it comes to celebrations involving fireworks.
“I’m a Marine Artilleryman. Even if I could hear fireworks, they wouldn’t impress me,” Johnson said. "Veterans aren’t broken. We’ve endured some of the hardest fighting our nation has seen in decades. We’ve lived through that. We definitely want folks to be mindful. But more mindful in celebrating all the great things we have as a nation, to celebrate our freedom, to celebrate safely, but to have fun."
The mission for veterans' groups like The Independence Fund stays year-long when it comes to supporting those that serve the U.S.
"We’re coming up on the 20th anniversary of 9/11,” Johnson said. “Our country has been at war for 20 years. We have that fatigue. While I do believe America still supports our veterans day in and day out, we’re almost an afterthought... As opposed to the early 2000s, where we had so many men and women returning to war.
"Just remember those men and women, not just from 9/11, but all our nation’s wars are still out there. If you see a Vietnam veteran with a hat on in Walmart, thank him for their service, think her for their service," he continued. "Just take a little bit of time to reflect on the fact we’re here, we are able to celebrate this holiday only because of the brave men and women that fought for us so we could have those freedoms."
If you're looking to get involved with The Independence Fund or learn more about the resources the agency offers, click here.