A change to the Fourth of July celebration on the USS Kidd has upset some who have served in war.
The mock aerial air attack has been suspended from the program this year for money and safety reasons. According to one Vietnam veteran, the long-standing tradition should not be sacrificed.
US Navy Retired Second Class Petty Officer Charles Holdeman is a proud veteran of the Vietnam War. His home is decorated in his country's colors. He carries the memories deep in his heart, some of them more than a half-century old.
“We actually escorted Marines over there to Vietnam and they were advisers at that time,” Holdeman said.
He spent four years working on a destroyer similar to the US Kidd, which is docked on the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge.
“I tell you what, those little ships that you see, they built like 240 like that. Those little devils did some terrific work,” Holdeman explained.
He turned to a picture of himself at the age of four. He was wearing a sailor suit. He said his mom must have had a hunch that the uniform fit.
“I always loved the water. My dad was a tow boat captain on the Mississippi River in the summertime. I used to go with him on the boats,” Holdeman added.
He traveled the world with the Navy. His favorite port of call was Honolulu, Hawaii, where he anchored his military experience to his arm with a special tattoo.
“It's supposed to say ‘Homeward Bound’ on it, but it's been so long, everything smeared together,” Holdeman said.
He does not miss a chance to share those stories with his kids and grandkids. He said he has taken them to the USS Kidd on many of America's birthdays. It usually includes a personal tour.
“The Fourth of July is our heritage day, I call it. They say, ‘Paw paw, how do you know that? And I say, ‘Well, I spent four years on there,’” he said.
This year's celebration on the USS Kidd will go on without the air demonstration showing fighter planes attacking the ship as it fires rounds to defend itself. Alex Juan, spokeswoman for the USS Kidd, said the agency had to sacrifice the show for financial and safety reasons.
However, it is more than just a form of entertainment for Holdeman.
“I really cry. I really do and I guess you can tell the way I'm talking. I get involved in it and it's just hard. Our country is in sad shape,” he explained.
He said he fears it is a sign of things to come. Holdeman said it is the only way he knows how to truly honor those he considers the real heroes.
“I don't think about myself, what I've done. I think about the guys who have died,” he said.