There are a lot of people around Johnson County who take the Fourth of July as a serious day to celebrate all the freedoms we have in this country.

But the Bench Sitters are aware too many of us see it more as a holiday away from work to enjoy picnics, barbeques, camping and a lot of wonderful outdoor recreation opportunities we are blessed with here.

Those who have lost family members in the struggles to maintain our democracy and abundance of economic opportunity are acutely aware of the real meaning of the July 4th holiday.

And then there are people like Sally.

She is far too sensitive to be critical of anyone who doesn’t share her deep respect for these freedoms. She’s proud to be a citizen of the United States and values this more than most of us.

“I didn’t know much about the story of the young Kaycee soldier who lost his life in Korea so many years ago,” she says.

“But when I read about it and learned of the ceremony and burial of his remains in Kaycee last week, I decided to drive down to honor this man and his family.”

Sally’s family immigrated to the United States in 1950.

Her family was from Lithuania, and that story can make any of us born here more aware of what we take for granted.

In the early days of World War II, the Germans had taken control of Lithuania. Sally said her parents had possession of a one-page newspaper that was critical of the German occupation.

Her mother showed that sheet of paper to another woman, not realizing she was an informant.

A few days later she was pushing a baby carriage down the street and heard the marching boots of soldiers coming up behind her.

They took her and the child to a large building where many other women were being held for different reasons. They didn’t believe her story that she had found that single piece of paper in an outdoor privy.

Her mother told Sally they all had to sleep on piles of straw and everyone was suffering from infestations of fleas and lice.

The building had some high windows, but they could not see into a nearby courtyard, where daily executions by firing squads were being conducted by the Germans.

“My mother had studied music and when women would start crying and sobbing because they suspected their husbands, sons or brothers were being shot, she would start singing “Ave Maria,’ it seemed to help quiet them down.”

Sally’s parents told her the Lithuanians and many others in Europe waited in hope that “the Americans would soon come” and free them. After all, the Americans had showed up to help put an end to World War I.

Her father had been arrested and placed in a slave labor camp, but somehow survived until the end of the war. By a fortunate number of circumstances he was finally reunited with his wife after the war.

Soon the family made the decision to immigrate to the United States. They were fortunate to have a relative here (an aunt) who was already a citizen and could sponsor them.

There is a lot more to the story, but that’s why the Fourth of July holds special meaning for Sally Blanford.

Sometimes those who know a little about living without the benefits of a true democracy can help the rest of us understand why it is worth great sacrifice and should be cherished deeply and protected from within as well.

If you ever wondered how important freedom of speech and the press might be to our form of government, consider just how threatened the powerful Germans were by a single page of a newspaper in Lithuania so many years ago.

Last Friday night there were several “16 County” license plates on cars parked near Coors Field in Denver. It was the special game where junior baseball teams in the region could march around the field holding their banners up prior to the game between the Colorado Rockies and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

With temperatures in the 90’s at the 6:30 p.m. game, it was a perfect evening for baseball.

Kids and parents were treated to an action-packed game (with a 7th inning rain and lightning delay). The game ended with Colorado on the good side of a 13-9 score.

When the local groups headed back to Buffalo Saturday morning, the Denver traffic was an excellent reminder of how wonderful it is to live in northern Wyoming. It tempers our complaints of the mountains and Lake DeSmet being so crowded on holiday weekends like this.  

Again, it is about getting things in the proper perspective.

So the Bench Sitters wish all the best to their readers for the 2019 celebration of this country’s independence.

SVEN

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