Offutt celebrates America's 233 birthday Published July 7, 2009 By Staff Sgt. James M. Hodgman 55th Wing Public Affairs OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Small American flags blow in the wind. Children smile as their faces are painted. Hundreds of servicemembers, their families and members of the local community are here for one thing ... to celebrate America's birthday. Team Offutt held its annual Red, White and Blue celebration at the Base Lake July 2. During the event attendees enjoyed several activities including a fishing derby, clowns, face painting, volleyball and a three-legged race. Heartland of America's ensemble, Raptor, entertained hundreds of attendees with hits such as "Sweet Home Chicago," "Respect," and "Drift Away." The band also played a collection of patriotic songs including "Torch of Freedom," and "God Bless the USA." The United States recognizes July 4, 1776, the day the nation declared independence from Britain, as Independence Day even though the nation didn't officially achieve independence until the Treaty of Paris was signed on September 3, 1783 and the United States Congress of the Confederation ratified the treaty on January 14, 1784. The first Independence Day was observed on July 4, 1777, and by the early 1800's a tradition of parades, picnics and fireworks was established to celebrate America's birthday. This is a tradition that retired Master Sgt. Tom D. Vanlaningham said he is glad to see continuing today. The show is well organized, the fireworks display is great and it's fun to be around servicemembers and fellow retirees to share Independence Day, Mr. Vanlaningham said. Mr. Vanlaningham has been attending Offutt's Independence celebration for the past four years and said it's vital for all Americans, especially servicemembers, to honor America on Independence Day. "It's important especially when you think about why we celebrate this day," Mr. Vanlaningham said. "The extent our Founding Fathers went for freedom is something we have to remember." Independence Day has a special place in the heart of Airman 1st Class Fernando A. Rodriguez, with the 55th Maintenance Group. "I have a lot of pride for my country and today we celebrate our freedoms, and what our Founding Fathers did for us to help us get to where we are today," Airman Rodriguez said. "Everybody that lives here should honor and be proud of what our country stands for." As darkness fell, people surrounded the lake in hopes of getting the best view of Offutt's patriotic fireworks display. With their eyes turned toward the sky, they watched as a flurry of color took over the night. Shades of blue, green, red and pink were greeted by oohs and aahs. For almost 20 minutes, everyone was fixated on what was exploding above Earth. As Team Offutt witnessed an amazing fireworks display they also shared a special moment, said Airman 1st Class Johnathan H. Hataway, with the 97th Intelligence Squadron. "Everything coming together is what makes this day special; the band, the food, the people." Everyone celebrating our country's independence is a great thing."