By Andrea Camarena

Whether our country is fighting for its independence or the independence of others, every American war has one thing in common - the courageous service of the men and women in our Armed Forces.

That was evident at Exeter's Fourth of July celebration in City Park last Tuesday when three men talked about their experience serving overseas in wars spanning the last 50 years from Korea to Iraq.

Retired US Air Force Col. George Clausen spoke to his fellow Americans on July 4 at Exeter City Park reminding them of why we celebrate the nation's birthday.

&#8220It's a privilege to be here to celebrate the birth of our country,” Clausen said. &#8220I want to remind everyone what a great country this is.”

Clausen spoke of his tour in the Korean War in 1951 and another in the Vietnam conflict in 1967. He was deployed on 100 missions in Vietnam with 44 taking place over the Hanoi area. One third of every pilot serving in Vietnam was either killed, went missing or was taken as a prisoner of war.

&#8220I'm very happy to have served our country at this time,” Clausen said of his service in the Air Force. &#8220Remember, we live in the greatest country in the world,” Clausen said at the end of his Independence Day address. &#8220Remember that we are the home of the brave. We are the land of the free. Let's keep it that way!”

US Army Col. Jim Mainwaring spoke to the crowd about his experience watching the birth of a new democratic nation in Iraq as our nation was celebrating its independence from English monarchy in 1776. Mainwaring, 51, recently retired from the Army after more than 30 years of service.

In Iraq, Mainwaring was Colonel and Chief of Staff in command of the 351st Civil Affairs Command Unit, which coordinates civilian-military relations in Iraq. Primarily, his staff works closely with the Iraqi government with the logistical details of improving infrastructure, water and sewer systems. His main duties were working with the State Department and departments, or ministries, of the Iraqi government to improve basic services, such as sewer and water systems, trash pickup, potable water and converting electricity from high voltage for use in the home.

Mainwaring was followed up by Kristy Alves who read a letter from Joseph Howard of Lemoncove who is currently serving in Iraq as a firefighter in the civilian forces.

Howard attended Sequoia Union and graduated from Exeter Union High School. Immediately after finishing high school, Howard, barely 18, left his home to join the Air Force straight out of high school.

Now, 23, Howard wrote a letter back home for Alves to read aloud at the Fourth of July celebration in City Park. Howard celebrated the accomplishments of his grandfathers.

&#8220My grandfather, Don Howard was the first pilot to break the sound barrier and he earned a purple heart for his service,” Howard said.

His mother's father served in World War II and saved a bridge from the Germans in Italy.

Howard's humble letter briefly described his own time in war including terrorist attacks in Pakistan. Still Howard's focus remained on other people's service and his gratitude towards those men and women.

&#8220I greatly respect anyone who has served in the armed forces, please keep us all in your thoughts and prayers,” Howard finished his letter.

Their inspiring speeches added more than just flag waving and fireworks to this year's Independence Day.

They offered the harsh realities of war and the sacrifices our fellow countrymen continue to make to allow us the freedom to gather in a park. More importantly they protect the freedoms established by those who came before them that allow us to celebrate our country with people in our town even though they may disagree with a politician, policy or war.

- Reggie Ellis contributed to this report.

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