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From December 2007 to February 2009, Lieutenant Colonel Brian Poe was deployed with the United States Army while his wife was pregnant with their third child. He served in the Army for 20 years, and over a decade after his last deployment, he visited Kings Island with his family for the Fourth of July, including with his oldest daughter who will start college soon.
“I grew up in the area and retired in the Northern Virginia area, so we actually like to come back every year for Fourth of July to visit the family,” Brian said. “It’s a really great opportunity to bring the family to a place like Kings Island where I grew up as a kid, working to buy my first season pass, and getting to bring the kids in to see all the old rides and the new rides. It’s a really great way to just kind of share my youth with the family these days.”
There are so many sacrifices our military members make, but the biggest may be time spent away from family. That’s why Kings Island likes to give that time back. Over the Fourth of July holiday, active and retired military personnel received free admission to the park for Military Appreciation Days.
“You can’t ever really replace the lost time, but what I really appreciate is the opportunity to come in and take advantage of these sorts of things from great institutions like Kings Island where they recognize our service and separation time from the family,” Brian said.
Staff sergeant James Hopper has served in the United States Marine Corps for 15 years. This week he visited the park with his wife, children, sister, brother-in-law and nieces. We caught up with him while he watched his kids and nieces ride the bumper cars. As he spoke, he spun a basketball won at one of the arcade games while he walked with his family to ride Vortex.
“It’s great to be able to spend time with them,” James said. “Obviously we do go on deployments. We’re away a lot of the times, but getting to hang out with my family and my nieces is a great time.”
Lieutenant Chris Martin served in the United States Navy for eight years and retired when he and his wife decided to have a family. As he carried a giant bag of pool floaties into the park, his three daughters followed at his side wearing red, white and blue dresses and headbands with stars. Two of them will visit the park for the first time.
“We wanted to have a family and knew that it would be very tough to do but knew that a lot of families do that and serve that way,” Chris said. “I can’t imagine missing a single day without them now that I have them.”
Although he was not separated from his children during his time in the military, Chris said he understands the sacrifice military families make and what it means to spend lost time together.
“This means the world to be able to come here with our family and enjoy this and see other families and see other military families who have been away from their kids during this time,” Chris said. “It’s very special to us and it means the world to us, and we thank everybody for their service as well.”
In all of the excitement of fireworks and parades, it’s easy to forget what the Fourth of July is all about. Another Army member who has served for 16 years said it’s important to teach children the meaning of the holiday.
“I think it’s vital that we teach our youth and children it’s just not a barbeque holiday,” he said. “Tell them what it is. Its America’s birthday. It’s our independence. It’s vital that they learn about that in their schools and then our families as well. We need to teach that to our children. I think that’s getting lost, so I think that’s a vital part of why people should know that we celebrate the Fourth of July.”
From all of us at Kings Island, thank you to the brave men and women who serve and have served in the U.S. military, and Happy Independence Day!
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