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War Memorial Park revelers celebrate freedom on Fourth

July 05, 2005|by TRISH RUDDER

trishr@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - For some Americans who have family and friends in the military, it is not the usual Fourth of July celebration - it's personal - but there was a common thread among the people celebrating the day at War Memorial Park in Martinsburg.

They spoke of "freedom."

Belinda Lewis was celebrating Independence Day with some family members on Monday. Lewis said her 22-year-old son, Lance Cpl. Trenton Lewis, is a weapons specialist in the U.S. Marine Corps. He has been serving for two years and is at Camp Pendleton in California, "on standby for deployment," Lewis said.

"He loves it, and he's ready to go if needed," she said. "This year is more special because he could go to Iraq or Afghanistan soon."

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Mary Jane Kearns, Trenton Lewis's grandmother, said she is worried about him, "and he's the only one so far (in our family) that is serving our country."

"We wouldn't be able to assemble like we are doing today without our freedom," Belinda Lewis said.

Many Martinsburg families celebrate July Fourth every year at War Memorial Park. Some strive to get the same picnic spots.

Carol Brady arrived at 7 a.m. to secure three tables in one of the pavilions above the bandstand. Brady traveled from Lothian, Md., for the Infinger, Gray and Shanks family reunion. Brady's daughter, Tina Infinger, said the holiday is special in another way because her son, Elisha Sailliez, is celebrating his eighth birthday, and she has a 7-week-old baby, Donovan Infinger.

"We come every year," Infinger said.

"We all support our troops. If not, we would not be sitting here celebrating today," Brady said.

Former U.S. Army infantry soldier Merle Raney II was in Iraq during the Gulf war in 1990-91. Raney, who said he was in the service for seven years, was enjoying lunch in the park at the Raney, Pittsnogle and Cole family reunion.

Raney said a family friend, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Barbie Tang, is stationed in Iraq. Tang is expected to come home on leave next March. This is her second tour of duty in Iraq, he said.

"All the Fourth of July celebrations are special because we are fighting for our freedom. We would not be able to celebrate it without our freedom," Raney said.

It is estimated that 4,000 people come to War Memorial Park on the Fourth of July, said Steve Catlett, the director of Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks and Recreation. Events included vendors, pony rides, entertainment by the Stoney Creek Bluegrass Band starting at 5 p.m. and fireworks at 9:30 p.m.

Catlett said about 20,000 people watch the fireworks every year. The public park was established in 1947, he said.

"Even when it was a private park in the 1920s, there were fireworks," Catlett said.

Libby Files, bass player, vocalist and manager for Stoney Creek, said this is the band's third year providing the July Fourth entertainment at the park.

"The servicemen and women are all special when they are fighting for our freedom," Files said.

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