ABOARD USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines on board USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) celebrated Independence Day at sea while continuing combat sorties in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
While millions of Americans lighted fireworks, drove to the beach, and grilled outdoors, Truman's crew was hard at work protecting the freedoms the United States was founded upon.
"I could not be more proud of our Sailors and Marines," said Capt. Joe Clarkson, Truman's commanding officer. "Just like those who signed the Declaration of Independence and then fought to secure liberty and freedom, our Sailors and Marines work to preserve our freedoms. Their outstanding performance and willingness to serve is a glowing tribute to the sacrifice, spirit, commitment, and drive of those who have come before us and are the traits which make our country great."
Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Shawn Pankratz of Witchita, Kansas, assigned to Deck department's 1st division, said it was an honor and a privilege to be serving on the day when the country celebrates America's independence.
"Normally on the Fourth, I would go fishing most of the day and probably grill up some fish afterward," he said. "Then I would spend the rest of the night with the family shooting fireworks."
For Pankratz, the sacrifice of being on deployment was bittersweet because he missed his daughter's first birthday on July 2nd, and her first Independence Day. He added that our country's ideals are founded on those types of sacrifices, and he is proud to make them.
"Our forefathers took a stand and we became a country of our own. Now I am out here defending freedom and democracy," said Pankratz.
The realization of the importance of their work helped the crew to stay motivated and focused on the mission, despite the difficulty of being away from friends and family.
"At home on the Fourth, we would go out to the lake near Disney World to watch the fireworks and have barbeque," said Engineman Fireman Parnell Jones of Orlando, Florida, assigned to Deck department's 1st division. "But I'm proud to be out here having this experience on the other side of the world. We are investing in the future."
Not every celebration is a large one. Many crew members recalled the simple traditions that make the celebration memorable to them.
"I would probably be making tamales and watching soccer on television," said Aviation Structural Mechanic Airman Balbina Vilorio of Westchester, N.Y., assigned to the "Swordsmen" of Fighter Attack Squadron Three Two (VFA 32).
Vilorio spent Independence Day performing maintenance and doing her part to ensure that the jets were ready to fly. She reflected on the importance of the holiday, and her reasons for being here.
"While I was working, I thought of our ability as Americans to be innovative and overcome difficult circumstances," said Vilorio. "By serving here today, I am providing safety and protection for the people I care for the most."
For more news from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn75/.