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Red, White and Blue Celebration For Independence Day

Just to remind Oyster Bay of its revolutionary roots, Raynham Museum staff members marched in the annual Fourth of July Parade dressed in authentic Colonial costumes. The house museum was the home of the Townsends, and General George Washington’s spy, Culper Jr., (really Robert Townsend). The museum played a big part in our Revolutionary War beginnings, including being taken over by the Queen’s Rangers during that war.  

Linking Oyster Bay’s past war with our present warriors, making their annual appearance in town were the Commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt and several crew members. Oyster Bay was the hamlet that donated items for the commissioning of the USS TR and there has remained a link between the ship and the hamlet ever since.

Quentin Roosevelt Post #4 American Legion Commander Reginald Butt was the parade coordinator, and he called members of Boy Scout Troop 253 to lead the Pledge of Allegiance. He told those gathered that this year, Ted Pulling, who  works in China was riding in an antique car with his two daughters, Ashley and Brooke. It was their first time in America and their first Fourth of July. They just arrived from Hong Kong, he said.

TOB Receiver of Taxes James Stefanich said, “Happy Birthday U.S.A. I am happy to be here with my neighbors celebrating this piece of Americana, the Fourth of July. It’s muggy, but there is a breeze, and I will be brief. Be healthy, happy and safe and God Bless America!”

NYS Assemblyman Chuck Lavine thanked all the veterans who were participating, and all the young people there. He said, “Thank goodness that we live in the USA: a nation unique in that it was not founded in any sense of Nationalism or religious purity. Just that you and I and everyone that wants to belong to this great nation - can.”

He added, “God bless the United States of America,” and gave his  thanks to all the troops currently serving this country.

Commander Butt named all the veterans groups and marching groups, as well as the Oyster Bay Fire Company No. 1, and the Atlantic Steamer Fire Department, and included the Oyster Bay Historical Society and Boy Scout Troop 253.

Steven Walker led the Oyster Bay Community Band in a superb rendition of Victory at Sea – with all the flair of a concert performance. Later in the week, band clarinetist Charles Gaulkin said, “The Oyster Bay Community Band is now in the best shape it has been. There is great enthusiasm in the group, and they are learning well. Their level of playing is better than ever.” Mr. Gaulkin, who is a senior member of the group added that it was sad that because of budget cutting, the Oyster Bay-East Norwich School District isn’t continuing to support the costs of setting up the band. “It’s an advertisement for the school and its music program,” he said.

Captain William Hart

Commander Butt introduced the special guest of the celebration, the Captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, Billy Hart.

Captain Hart introduced Master Chief Petty Officer CMDCM Jack Callison who introduced the members of the USS TR’s crew, several of whom spoke.

LS3 Christopher McGuire of Levittown said, “Thanks for having us here. It is an intimate way to share the Fourth of July, Independence Day.”

D.C.3 Crystal Latham offered a happy holiday to all.

HM1 Pamela Patterson said she was from Queens, Long Island and got an immediate cheer. “I’m here with my daughter Leila and my parents,” she said.

LS1 Makia Adams said she was from Brooklyn and had been in the Navy for 7 years. “Now I’m with the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Thank you and Happy Independence Day. God bless America,” she said.

Captain Hart said this was the 235th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. “It’s a great holiday and a great nation – that declared independence for all generations,” he stated.

He said most people know the beginning of the Constitution that starts with “We the people of the United States...” but few know the beginning of the Declaration of Independence which starts with, “When in the course of human events... The Declaration of Independence shows how the colonies looked away from Britain as they sought the benefits of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the basis of our democracy.”

He said of the 56 people who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds; five were captured and beaten; all lost their families and their wealth. “Each was driven from their homes because of standing up for their values, he said.” It was a reminder of the cost of freedom then and now.

Captain Hart thanked the Oyster Bay Community Band saying, “That was a great Victory at Sea!” He added, “Cherish the gift that has been given to us and God bless the U.S.A.”

The band played Teddy You’re a Bear as an introduction to James Foote, who spoke as Colonel Roosevelt.

Col. Roosevelt said, “Hi friends. I hope I need not say how happy and delighted I am to be here because here, I am no longer President, but your friend and neighbor.”

Then out of character he asked the crowd how they liked the parade, and asked if they had copies of the program for the day. He said the cover had a picture of a soldier from the Civil War, adding it reminded him of a speech TR gave. In it, the President said, “The Civil War gave us a reason to rejoice at having saved the union and of being without slavery; and to celebrate the self sacrifice of the men who wore the blue and the men who wore the gray.” There was applause.

He added that TR said, everything in life that is worth doing needs labor, effort and that a serious purpose often includes the willingness of taking risks. He gave a few of TR’s truisms: to be a good citizen of the country you must be a good citizen of your community; everybody in this great nation shouldn’t be a mere passenger; Americanism isn’t about a birthplace, creed or color, it is about purpose; there are equal rights and equal obligations under the stars and stripes.” “You can applaud here,” he added, as Mr. Foote.

He said it was great to share the bandstand with the commander and crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, saying that it was TR’s view that the United States was only as strong as a strong Navy. “It is the cheapest insurance policy Uncle Sam could ever take,” he said. Then he invited everyone to go to Sagamore Hill to further celebrate the Fourth of July.

Commander Butt said the participation and observance of the Fourth of July keeps the spirit of America going.

With that he led the color guards and marching units as they marched back to the Oyster Bay Community Center where there were refreshments for the marchers. Many of the group visited the Oyster Bay Historical Society to enjoy their Ice Cream Social, including the Raynham Hall Museum marchers.

It was another lovely historic day in Oyster Bay.