Even in Tough Times, Fourth of July Inspires

Hope, Celebration Charge Day's Events

Residents from across the Washington area partake in the festivities honoring the Independence Day holiday.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, July 5, 2009

Helen Ingallis marched through the Palisades section of Washington, waving an American flag for the first time in her 55 years. David and Laurie Souder staked out a spot on the Mall and shared a $9 plate of fried fish, celebrating on a budget. Vera Nathan and Shenevia Willingham sat at a table in a park in Southeast and lighted firecrackers, jobless but happy to be together.

Washingtonians gathered yesterday to celebrate Independence Day in a country transformed by recession, war and a shift in political winds, events that have affected their outlook on the nation's fate, and their own. Amid it all, residents everywhere and of all political persuasions paused to remember the simple pleasures of small-town parades, backyard barbecues and, on the Mall, the Washington Monument illuminated by fireworks.

Until yesterday, Ingallis had never wanted to wave an American flag. She felt that the country was too aggressive in its foreign policy, that its leaders were irrational and self-serving.

This year, adorned in patriotic red, white and blue, the District native paraded down the street with hundreds of others in the 43rd annual Palisades Parade, flag in hand.

"I feel like there is finally hope," said Ingallis, an art conservationist at the Smithsonian Institution.

As she waved her first flag on the streets of the Palisades, families of fallen warriors gathered at a Holiday Inn in Arlington County to accept "Honor and Remember" flags during a ceremony that was part of a weekend-long reunion for members of the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines.

Surviving Marines also gathered, about 80 of them, some still close-shaven, others wearing their hair long. They remembered their fallen: 21 young men, 17 of whom were killed in the 2004 battle for Fallujah, Iraq.

Karen Cox, whose husband served as the men's chaplain in Iraq, traveled from Japan to speak at the remembrance ceremony. She started by pointing out that hotel staff had provided a box of tissues for each row of chairs in the room.

"It's okay to let the tears fall," she said at the start of the ceremony, which was timed to coincide with Independence Day. "Don't fight it too hard."

In memory of Demarkus Brown. In memory of Nicholas Ziolkowski. In memory of Gentian Marku. One by one, the names rolled past.

Thomas Hodges, who was struck by shrapnel during the ambush in Fallujah that killed Marku at age 22, offered a flag to Marku's sister Joana and mother, Sate, and bent down to hug them.

After the ceremony, Joana and Sate sat outside on a bench. "It's great seeing my brother's friends, because I can kind of see him through them," said Joana Marku, 20.

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