LAURINBURG — Celebrating the Fourth of July a day early on Friday, residents of Scotia Village embraced the patriotic holiday in an altruistic spirit by collecting snack items to provide for hungry soldiers on their travels.
Nan Maples, a volunteer with the Raleigh-Durham International Airport USO center, explained the role of the organization, though to an audience composed largely of former service members it needed no introduction.
“It’s wonderful to talk to people who know what the USO is and what they do — and that they’ve continued to do since 1941,” Maples said. “Some of the young men and women don’t know what we do or that we even still exist.”
The RDU USO center is one of five in the state, and serves more than 5,000 service members every month by supplying them with free snacks and sandwiches and a welcoming face. USO derives support entirely from private businesses and individuals.
The Raleigh chapter involves 350 volunteers, including a group on call 24/7 to perform planeside honors for fallen service members passing through the airport. Maples said that service is called upon more than 50 times per year — more often for soldiers killed in training accidents or suicide than for soldiers killed in action.
“This weekend it’s important to remember that less than one percent of our population does the job that our military does, and they volunteer to do it,” said Maples. “I’ve met some wonderful young men and women who are doing this, and are serving their country. It’s a perilous time for them right now, so please keep them in mind.”
The event also included a singalong featuring the military anthems of each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces: “The Army Goes Rolling Along,” “Anchors Aweigh,” “The Marines’ Hymn,” “The U.S. Air Force,” and “Semper Paratus” along with the Star-Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful.
Scotia’s activities director, Rick Clancy, stepped right out of 1776 for the occasion in the guise of Thomas Jefferson and brandishing a copy of the Declaration of Independence.Those present murmured along with him as he read through the familiar opening: “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another… .”
Clancy also called attention to the correct significance of the dates associated with America’s independence.
“Typically it’s celebrated tomorrow, on July 4th,” he said. “Although technically the Declaration was written and signed on July 2nd, it just wasn’t presented to the public until the fourth. So we’re at the day in between — I think we’re good.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.