News

Independence Day in Iraq a time for relaxation, reflection

5 Jul 2004 | Sgt. Matt Epright

What little beer they had was non-alcoholic and the fireworks were nonexistent, but that didn't stop service members from celebrating their independence here, July 3 and 4, 2004, just days after helping to deliver the Iraqis theirs.

The two days of Independence Day activities included a comedy show and blues concert, as well as several sporting events and a barbecue.

Several hundred Marines, sailors and soldiers from all across the camp packed around a stage and stayed late into the evening July 3, to enjoy the comedic styling of Detroit-based Pete Gray and the rock and rhythm of Los Angeles band The Red Hot Blues.

"It's kind of like a little piece of home coming out here," said Cpl. Scott T. Schultz, from Headquarters and Service Battalion, 1st Force Service Support Group.

Camp Taqaddum was the entertainers' second stop of a three-camp tour. They were at Camp Fallujah July 2 and went to Camp Al Asad July 4.

"I think it's really cool that these guys came out here, to a hostile area, just to be with us," said Schultz, a 21-year-old native of Mayville, N.D.

Gray, who has been to several other hot spots around the globe, including Bosnia and Kosovo, said he feels it is his civic duty to perform for deployed troops, though his friends at home think he is crazy for doing it.

Service members tend to be a much more appreciative audience, said the 26-year-old native of Birmingham, Mich.

Camp residents enjoyed the opportunity to unwind and forget, for a little while, that they are away from home.

"I think it's good for the morale of the Marines," said Staff Sgt. Howard R. Shadwell, a 30-year-old native of Paris, Texas, who is also from H&S Battalion. "It breaks up the monotony of having to do work every single day."

The next day's events kicked off before the sun even peaked over the horizon, with a 3.2-mile foot race, followed by morning volleyball and horseshoe games and a softball tournament that lasted throughout the day.

For a traditional Fourth of July meal, the camp's mess hall fired up outdoor grills and cooked up hamburgers and barbecued chicken for the troops.

The concert was put on by the camp's morale, welfare and recreation coordinators and the second day's events were set up by civilian contractors from Kellogg, Brown and Root.

Throughout the days' activities, troops also had a chance to look back on what they have accomplished since deploying to Iraq. Independence Day held special meaning for many of them, as they had a hand in bringing about independence for the Iraqis.

"It's really sort of an honor," said Schultz. "We get to give them the same freedom that we have."

Many feel that is what the holiday is all about.

"I think everyone deserves a chance at freedom, a chance to live a life like they want to live," said Sgt. Paul A. Dube, the 1st FSSG's future operations chief and a 25-year-old native of Minor Hill, Tenn.

Some Marines are even optimistic that the Iraqis may eventually celebrate June 28 as their "Independence Day."

"They will hopefully reflect back to the sacrifices the Americans made to make that happen," said Maj. Kenneth L. Crabtree, a 34-year-old native of Nazareth, Pa., who helped coordinate the activities.
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1st Marine Logistics Group