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Families, community celebrate democracy (video)

By chirst
July 4, 2013 at 2:04 a.m.

Bethany Martinez and her son, Corey, 4, play with light-up toys before the fireworks Thursday at the Miller Lite Blastoff at the Victoria Community Center. The show was moved back to the community center after being held at the Victoria Mall for several years.

Staff Sgt. Justin Buchman of the U.S. Army smiled wide as he swung his laughing 2-year-old daughter in circles.

He spent the Fourth of July at the Victoria Community Center, celebrating his country, his freedom and his family.

But he could not help but think about the friends he lost, the friends who paid the ultimate price, during his six tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"It is the flag - every time you hear the national anthem, every time you hear taps playing at a funeral, you see the flag flinging in the wind, and I think about the troops lost, the friends lost," Buchman said, gazing over the grassy field full of kids playing.

"In one of my last missions, we went in with nine men and came out with three."

And he isn't alone.

He came to the Miller Lite Blastoff, sponsored by the city of Victoria and Hartman Distributing, with friends from Faith Family Church.

Tommy Kingston, a U.S. Navy veteran who attends the church, said his family has been coming to the Victoria fireworks show for almost 20 years.

And Thursday, his group boasted 18 people listening to the bands and watching the fireworks as they ate homemade ice cream and drank lemonade.

It is just tradition, Kingston said.

"This is a celebration of America. This is what all of America is about. We need the unity back, and this brings everyone back. It is a very special time, in all seriousness. The forefathers started it. It was built on their Declaration of Independence, and that is where we are right now," Kingston said, holding his 3-month-old grandson in his arms.

The 30-minute fireworks show was estimated to have reached 30,000 people, said Jay Soule, special event coordinator for Hartman Distributing. Many lined the streets and parking lots around the community center, thousands arriving for the show.

David Hartman, co-owner of Hartman Distributing, said it has been co-sponsoring the event since 1979, while he was still in high school.

"It reaches out to the young and the old, everyone around town.

It is a way we can give back to the whole community, no matter their age, where they live or what they do," Hartman said.

Sandra Webb, who brought her two grandchildren to the show for the first time, said the event helps families celebrate the Fourth of July because it is free.

Kingston said they moved with the show when it went to the Victoria Mall, which was convenient because his family lived closer to the mall. But he is happy wherever the show is performed.

Buchman, who has attended the show the past few years, agrees.

"You can move it anywhere. You don't even have to go; you can stay at home. What matters is not so much the fireworks show but the celebration it holds," Buchman said.

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