Americans abroad Fourth of July different when you’re away from US
Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 29, 2014
Amy Epley saw fireworks explode above castles along the Rhine River. Brenda McCombs and friends sang “America the Beautiful” in the Alps.
Peggy and Bob Wilson were among the “Yanks” applauded at an event in London on July 4, 1976 — 200 years after America declared independence from the British crown.
These are among the memories readers shared when the Post asked how local people had celebrated the uniquely American holiday of Independence Day in other lands.
Several, like Epley, were stationed abroad in the service, For Mike Shue and Fred Moore Jr., both in the Navy, it was a day of remembering celebrations back home in Faith. For Mike Harris, in the Air Force, it was “just another day of war in Korea.”
Kermit B. Mitchell spent two busy July 4ths abroad while in the Pacific with the Army Air Corps during World War II — no time for celebrating.
Celebrating the 4th of July abroad can be an educational experience. People in Denmark celebrate because they are grateful that the U.S. welcomed so many Danes who settled here, Anne Lyles found. And Estonia, Linda Jones learned, has its own independence to celebrate in song.
Ironies surface. Walt and Hilda Ramseur felt some disconnect as they waved American flags on a Scandinavian ship in Germany. Clarence and Barbara Beaver recall hearing “Yankee Doodle Dandy” in a Kiev restaurant in the Ukraine.
All in all, it appears July 4 is recognized as an historic anniversary in many spots around the world — from sea to shining sea.
Here are the stories our readers shared:
The Matterhorn, in the Alps: “Two years ago I was traveling with a study group from University of Tennessee. We were at the Matterhorn on July 4th. One of the tour organizers passed out American flags for our group picture. The scenery around us was magnificent and inspired the group to spontaneously break into singing “American the Beautiful” and, being a UT group, a chorus of ‘Rocky Top.’
“As we sang, other tourists gathered around us to listen to our impromptu concert. After a round of applause, even the Matterhorn joined in by breaking through the cloud cover! Singing while abroad reminded us of the beauty of our homeland on this holiday that is unique to Americans.”
— Brenda McCombs
Cook out in Antigua: “Back in 1980, I was in the Navy on my first overseas deployment, a 6-month cruise to South America and West Africa. On July 4th, we stopped in Antigua, a small island nation in the Caribbean. Those who did not have duty that day were granted liberty. A small military base located there was throwing a Independence Day bash with games, entertainment, a cook out and a huge fireworks display that night. Many of the locals who worked on the base joined us along with their families and thought that this was a great idea. Apparently they did not have a day to celebrate like ‘us Americans.’ Although we were overseas, it was just like being back in Faith for the Fourth.”
— Mike Shue
Fireworks on the Rhine: Amy Epley — then Army Spec. Amy Hintz in the 1st Armored Division — was in Germany on July 4, 1994, when she and a friend took the Rhine River cruise. Epley was stationed at an Army base in Bad Kreuznach, which is on a tributary of the Rhine. She met Carol Schubeck, a guidance counselor at the local American school, through an organization like a German-American friendship club.
In boats that were decorated in red, white and blue, they were treated to the sight of fireworks over the ancient castles along the river.
“I was amazed,” Amy says. “It was real special to us who were military.”
A native of Nebraska, she became a sergeant and worked as an intelligence analyst.
She spent July 4, 1999, in Bosnia, after most of the violence there had abated. Stationed at Camp Comanche near Tuzla, she enjoyed a cookout and was the top female runner in the camp’s 5K race.
— Amy Epley
A Bicentennial bash with the Brits: “Bob and I spent a very significant July 4 in London on our Bicentennial in 1976. It was thrilling. We were on a trip with the N.C. Dental Society along with others from Salisbury: Bobby and Betty Lomax,Jim and Beverly Mitchell and the late Steve Thurston and Gen Thurston.
“Bobby had a friend from Manchester with whom he served in the Army. This friend guided us around on July 4 to see the U.S. Embassy and Franklin Roosevelt`s statue. He told us the story of English school children saving pennies to pay for the Roosevelt statue. We attended church at Westminster Cathedral where the priest talked about the ‘colonies.’
“The most thrilling part of the day was when he took us to Queen Elizabeth Hall where they were having a huge concert of American patriotic songs and asked the ‘Yanks’ to stand to thundering applause. I’m sure they celebrated the 4th more than we did. It was amazing.”
— Peggy Wilson
In the Mediterranean, missing Faith: “It was July 4, 1968, and I was serving onboard a U.S. Navy oiler (my home for 18 months), 19 years old, and in the Mediterranean Sea near Naples, Italy. It was the first 4th in memory that I wasn’t with my parents and brother standing in our old spot in Faith, N.C. After the parade we usually came home and ate watermelon from our garden, and often cranked some homemade ice cream.
“I probably was a little homesick and a little seasick. I don’t remember much about that 4th, but I’m sure I was busy working on deck helping refuel ships that pulled alongside us needing jet fuel and oil. As usual, I would have eaten a good meal, as most of our shipboard meals were quite tasty. We may have had some patriotic food to celebrate the holiday. I remember that Americans weren’t liked much by Europeans 46 years ago. In fact, I doubt if their attitude toward us has improved.
“The following July 4th, I was stationed near Indianapolis, Indiana; thus 1968 was the only year I have spent the 4th away from the good old USA. Since my discharge in 1971 I have spent most of my Independence Days where I belong — in Faith, N.C.”
— Fred Moore,Jr.
Among the grateful Danes: “I hosted four exchange students, 1991-1995. They were all from Denmark, which I chose because of my own Danish background. Both sets of my grandparents, as well as my father as a young child, immigrated to this country in the early 1900’s. I wanted to know more about Denmark and felt having the girls from there would be a good experience.
“This was certainly true. The girls (Therese, Mette, Dorte, Louise) were from different parts of Denmark and very different personality-wise too. They learned from their experiences at Salisbury High, etc. and they learned about my family background also.
“In the summer of 1995 I went to Denmark and spent a week with each of the girls. They took me everywhere which included meeting some family still there and places other family had lived.
“On the 4th of July I went to the Danish American celebration of the holiday that has been held in Rebuild Park near Alborg ever since the early 1900’s. There was an American speaker as well as a Danish speaker. There was Danish and American music. It was a very happy and festive occasion.
“They celebrate July 4th because many people emigrated to the U.S. — it provided them opportunities they did not have in Denmark at that time. The Danish people were very grateful to the U.S. for this and so celebrated one of our special holidays of freedom and independence.”
— Anne Rasmussen Lyles
Enjoying independence in Estonia: “Civitan International held its Annual Meeting in Talin, Estonia, in 2012, and as president of the Salisbury Civitan Club, I attended with other Salisbury Civitan members. Buddy Farnan accompanied me, and on the fourth of that July, we ‘celebrated’ by attending a music festival in the park in Talin, where the festival is held annually. The music we heard was diverse, from folk to rock to German beer songs. The food was great, and the people friendly.
“What seemed so ‘Fourth of July’ significant to me was the story behind Estonia’s love of music — especially vocal music: Overrun by Germans and then Russians, Estonians were desperate to be independent. When the Russians could not be forced out militarily, the people of Estonia grabbed hands and formed a human line of resistance and ‘sang until the Russians left!’ Every year since then, the Estonians celebrate their independence by holding one of the largest – if not the largest – music festival in Europe!”
— Linda Jones
On a Scandinavian ship: “In 2001 some friends and ourselves took a Viking River Cruise from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Vienna, Austria, on the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers.
“We were sailing into Wurzburg and Rothenburg, Germany, on July 4th. When we went in the dining room on board the ship that day, it was decorated with an Independence Day theme with American flags and lots of red, white and blue. It was interesting to be on a Scandinavian ship in Germany and realize the crew was helping us celebrate our Fourth of July!
“We had a special dinner including roast beef and shrimp cocktail. Part of the dining room was curtained off when we went in, and when the curtain was removed, it was to an array of fantastic chocolate desserts — very pleasing to all Americans.
“After dinner we were entertained by a very talented crew with several skits – many in honor of our American Fourth of July!”
— Walt and Hilda Ramseur
“Yankee Doodle Dandy” in the Ukraine: “In July 2005 myself and my wife along with her sister and husband took a Grand Circle tour of Kiev, Ukraine. We also took a river cruise in Russia which started in Moscow and ended in St. Petersburg. We were in Kiev on July 4th and ate at TGIF Friday. They gave us American flags and played patriotic music. One in particular that I remember was ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy.’ We had a wonderful experience in Kiev. Times have changed today.
— Clarence and Barbara Beaver
During the Korean War: “On July 4, 1952, at the age of 20, I was on a 5,000-foot mountain in Korea approximately 12 miles south of the 38th parallel, about 30 to 40 miles inland from the Sea of Japan.
“I cannot recall any celebration of any kind. Just another day of war with North Korea. My duties consisted of working six hours on and 12 hours off seven days a week. As a radio mechanic, I was responsible for keeping equipment on the air if it should fail. Thank goodness it almost never did. We had good transmitters and receivers. I was with the 608 Air Control and Warning squad, which consisted of radar and radio.
“I do recall coming home in September of 1952. My father was working at plant No. 8 in China Grove, so when he got off work I was waiting at his car for a ride home.”
— James Allen Harris
Carrying out the wounded during World War II: “While serving in the Army-Air Corps during WWII, I spent two July 4ths away from the United States.
“The first one was in 1944 where I was stationed in New Caledonia near Australia. The day was spent like any other: training in hand-to-hand combat, shooting artillery and marching. Still, my mind wandered back to the states and what July 4th means to all Americans.
“The second time was in 1945. I was stationed on the Island of Biak in the Netherlands East Indies. On this day we established an air base to be used for bringing in supplies and carrying out the wounded. It was our job to go to the front line and pick up the wounded and get them safely back to base. The severely wounded were sent to Hawaii. Even though the day was long and busy we still had time to reflect on what July 4th meant to the ones home in the states.”
— Kermit B. Mitchell