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Cultures, races join to celebrate Independence Day

By By Lee (Lavan) Martin
For a brief three hours July Fourth, Atmore and Atmore area communities stood together as one as we celebrated Independence Day 2000. Cultures and races, organizations and families, came together to celebrate our independence and the freedom we enjoy.
The July Fourth 2000 event was planned and orchestrated almost single-handedly by one man. That man was Jerry Gehman. I'm sure Jerry had the support of his family, but, in my opinion, it was he who originated the idea of an Atmore Fourth of July 2000 Celebration, planned it, raised money for it, and finally got local people involved. Since the City of Atmore did not make a financial contribution to his efforts, Jerry donated his entire discretionary fund to the celebration. My dear friends, that's what you call a true patriot.
As Atmore veterans, Jim Forte and I of the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars were invited to meet with Jerry to discuss veteran participation in the July Fourth Celebration. I was highly impressed with Jerry's enthusiasm, his attitude, and his earnest desire to recognize Atmore area veterans during the celebration. Jerry had his act together and only needed a few encouraging words. Jim and I assured him that whatever developed or was done would be appreciated by Atmore area veterans.
On behalf of Atmore area veterans, I take this means to say, "Thank you Jerry." Thank you for bringing Atmore area citizens together in one common cause for one common purpose! Thank you for a nostalgic and memorable evening! Thank you for the gift you gave each veteran. Finally, thank you for an opportunity for all of us to remember our great country and the fact that we do truly live in the "land of the free and home of the brave."
In conclusion, I cite a poem I received over the internet and dedicate it to all who served:
The soldier stood and faced God
Which must always come to pass
He hoped his shoes were shining
Just as brightly as his brass.
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always tuned the other cheek?
To My Church have you been true?
The soldier squared his shoulders and
Said, "No, Lord, I guess I ain't
Because those of us who carry guns
Can't always be a saint.
I've had to work most Sundays
And at times my talk was tough,
sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.
But, I never took a penny
That wasn't mine to keep…
Though I worked a lot of overtime
When the bills got just too steep,
And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear,
And sometimes, God forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.
If you've a place for me here,
Lord,
It needn't be so grand,
I never expected or had too much
But if you don't, I'll understand.
There was a silence all around
the throne
Where the saints had often trod
As the soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God,
You've borne your burdens well,
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell."