FORT BENNING, GA (WTVM) - Nearly 15,000 families from all across the county celebrated Independence Day at Fort Benning on June 28, 2014. The annual event has been going on for more than 20 years. Although the Fourth of July is still less than a week away, Bridgett Siter, marking specialist for the event said celebrating the day earlier helps soldiers plan out their holiday schedule.
"We always try to hold this event the weekend before Independence Day because these soldiers are going to try to get a break over that day," Siter said. "They don't have to worry about choosing whether to stay in Fort Benning or going out of state. They can have the best of both worlds."
The Silver Wings Parachute team performed, there were more than 20 inflatable bouncy houses and rides for children and carnival rides for adults. The free event provided live music as well as a fireworks show.
"This is the biggest fireworks show in the Chattahoochee Valley," Siter said. "The annual Independence Day celebration is the biggest event we put on Fort Benning, but this firework is the biggest in the area too."
Jess Smith, 22, completed 13 weeks of basic training. He enjoyed pizza and hung out with his peers. However, Smith said the best part about the event was being able to call his family in Idaho via a Verizon Wireless Phone Bank at the event.
"Being able to call home was fantastic," Smith said. "Especially with how often we can't call home. I looked at the time and I thought I was speaking to them for only 10 minutes. But it was actually 26 minutes."
Smith will be at Fort Benning to celebrate the Fourth of July this year. He won't be eating hot dogs or enjoying fireworks, but he will be training with his peers and other soldiers.
"It's strange because around this time of the year, I'm not even thinking about the Fourth of July," Smith said. "Not yet. I usually think about Independence Day two days prior. But right now, today was the Fourth of July for me. I got to speak with my family, and although we are not together, I felt right at home. I miss them. I can't wait to see them after a few more weeks."
Fort Benning will not be hosting any special events on the actual the holiday, but the National Infantry Museum will be hosting its Independence Day celebration on July 4, 2014. There will be music, kids' activities, food and more.