Thousands of people of all ages celebrated America’s birthday with food, swimming, music and a fireworks display at Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Regional Park on Friday.
Roderick Daniels is a first class in the United States Army, currently stationed at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock. He served three tours in Iraq, as well as in the United States.
“Freedom isn’t free, dating back to our Independence Day from Britain when it all started,” Daniels said. “We provide that freedom for people to come out and fellowship with other folks. And I believe God wants us to help each other.”
A Pine Bluff High School graduate of 1997, Daniels returned to Pine Bluff to visit relatives in his hometown. He enjoyed throwing a football with his 16-year-old cousin Justin Colbert.
“God allowed us to have freedom, dating back to the Founding Fathers. … You look at the one dollar bill. It says ‘In God We Trust.’ Even though we are a melting pot with different ethnicities, we are one nation under God.”
Having enlisted in the Army in 1999, Daniels said he will work for another five years in the Army before retiring. Soldiers willingly enlist knowing they will be in harm’s way because they have a duty to protect freedom and defend liberty.
Tonisha Freeman enjoyed the fresh air and fireworks with family members and friends, a tradition she does every Independence Day.
“The most important part is the soldiers overseas,” Freeman said. “I am appreciative of life itself, being free to do whatever I want to do. People fight hard for us.”
People barbecue at neighboring tables at the park. While they may not know each other, they share food nonetheless, she said. The nation’s birthday is a day in which Americans set aside their differences and celebrate their commonalities, she said.
“It’s an assembly of love. This is a tradition. Meeting new people. I look forward to it every year. It is a great feeling of togetherness. … Everyone is loving on each other to celebrate our independence.”
Tyrell Meadows celebrated by riding a motorcycle, watching fireworks, and fellowshipping with friends. He teaches combat water survival to Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets at the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff.
“I teach the cadets to survive jumping into water that is over their heads while wearing combat gear,” he said.
“My father is a Vietnam veteran. I call him every Fourth of July and tell him I appreciate how he fought for us. … We are not like those Third World countries where everything is controlled.”
The fireworks display was sponsored by Relyance Bank, Simmons Bank, KTRN, the Pine Bluff Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Pine Bluff Festival Association. The country rock band Exit 123 performed, sponsored by MK Distributors.