The Herald Bulletin

July 5, 2013

Holiday brings fun, serious reflections at Hoosier Park

By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Despite a persistent threat of rain, Madison County residents celebrated Independence Day 2013 with familiar and cherished traditions:

Family gatherings with burgers, brats and ribs cooked on gas and charcoal grills, the aroma wafting through neighborhoods.

In addition there were concerts, parades and other family fun activities celebrating the holiday throughout the area. And of course, there were fireworks.

At Hoosier Park Racing and Casino on Thursday, all of the above were combined onto one entertainment extravaganza.

Kendra Frye and her family generally watch the annual fireworks display from the parking lot at Maple Grove Church of God.

This year, they decided to come inside Hoosier Park to watch horse racing that started at 5 p.m., hear the Top Rock Junkies perform, and stay for the fireworks.

Kendra's sister, Melisha Frye, took a moment to reflect on the meaning of the day, saying July Fourth, "lets me know that I have my freedom and everything good. We are proud to be Americans."

Steve Patz and his wife drove up from Rising Sun to enjoy horse racing, to be followed today by a swing into Indianapolis to see "Smoke on the Mountain" at Beef & Boards Dinner Theater.

Their trip to Anderson turned into an impromptu family reunion. When the couple arrived at Hoosier Park, their son, Ross, and his wife were there, as well, to enjoy the evening activities.

The enjoyment of a day off was tempered with reflection.

"I think the first thing I always think about on this day are the troops that are serving overseas to protect us," said Steve Patz.

Mike Leisure was one of those soldiers in another era.

He was a U.S. Marine from 1972 to 1976, and participated in the evacuation of Saigon in April 1975. Code named Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation marked the end of the Vietnam war.

The task in those final days was to whisk out of South Vietnam the last remaining U.S. personnel and Vietnamese who worked for the military and other U.S. government agencies.

When he joined up, Leisure hoped to serve in combat. He was disappointed that his mission became one of evacuation.

"At the time, I was disappointed," Leisure said. "Now, I understand the blessing I received."

His son, Matthew, also joined the Marines and served as an embassy security officer. He's now a sergeant stationed in Charleston, S.C.

Leisure said a brother also served in the Marines, and other members of his family served in the U.S. Army and Air Force.

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