Post by International Military Life Community Manager, Courtney Woodruff
Independence Day was the first traditional American holiday we celebrated after our move to Germany. I have to admit, it made my heart ache a little to think about how we’d be celebrating if we were back in the States: spending the day with extended family and friends, sharing favorite summer recipes and snuggling up together on picnic blankets in the park after sunset to watch fireworks light up the night sky. It was disheartening not being able to display the U.S. flag we’d proudly hung from our front porch at previous duty stations. It was still in the box it arrived in, stored away in the cellar with the rest of the household goods that would remain packed up until our next big move.
If celebrating the fourth of July overseas has you feeling blue, check out these four uplifting ways military families can observe Independence Day at a far-off duty station.
Use the long weekend to explore a new city or country.
Take advantage of the time off -- or use a few days of leave, if you must – to celebrate the freedom to travel on Independence Day. Visit a host nation hotspot or hop the border to cross another country off your bucket list. July is prime tourist season around the world for a reason; school’s out, beaches are warm, travel deals abound and regional summer produce adds fresh flavors to local menus. See the long holiday weekend as another opportunity to experience all your overseas duty station has to offer.
Attend a red, white and blue event on a military installation.
Feeling nostalgic for traditional hometown Fourth of July festivities? Research what local organizations have planned for your military installation. There is nothing quite like the overwhelming feeling of pride, patriotism and solidarity the military community exudes when service members and families celebrate together. Stay up late to watch the fireworks display, if one is offered near you; the crackle of sparks mingling with a resounding rendition of the national anthem will make you feel at home – even if you are an ocean away.
Host a traditional American-style cook out at home.
If crowded festivals aren’t your cup of tea, head to the nearest commissary to stock up on hot dogs, hamburgers, buns, condiments and plenty of charcoal, and invite your friends and co-workers over for a backyard barbecue. Or, if you’re far from a DECA facility, get creative with what you can find in grocery stores on the economy to whip up the traditional American-style cook out feast. Consider extending an invitation to local nationals in your neighborhood to join in the fun and take part in the traditional celebration.
Pay your respects at a U.S. military cemetery on foreign soil.
No matter where you are in the world, you’re likely to find a U.S. military cemetery near your overseas duty station. Visitors gather in crowds for special events throughout the year, like Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day ceremonies, but burial grounds tend to be pretty quiet on Independence Day. Use this time to pay your respects to the service members that laid down their lives for our country and never made it home. For a list of U.S. military cemeteries on foreign soil, visit abmc.gov.
What are your favorite Independence Day traditions? How can you incorporate them into your holiday celebration overseas?
Check out the USAA – International FAQ
Courtney Woodruff is a military spouse, mom, writer, editor and web content manager currently living in Germany. She has a heart for our troops and their families and hopes to share what little she has learned along the way to help others overcome the unique challenges of military life. You can follow her adventures at her blog, Courtney At Home, or through her social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.