ELLOREE — Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Allen Reeves played a 1974 song by Johnny Cash during the Town of Elloree’s annual Independence Day celebration on Sunday, July 2, at Joe Miller Park.

The lyrics of “Ragged Old Flag” say that Old Glory “went where she was sent by her Uncle Sam,” which included flying over a fort and being seen by Francis Scott Key, and at the Alamo, Chancellorsville, Shiloh, Flanders Field, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

Cash concludes in his song: “I don’t like to brag, but we’re kinda proud of that ragged old flag.”

“I love that song!” Reeves said. “To me, there is nothing that better represents the meaning behind a small-town Fourth of July celebration.”

Among the reasons the Americans fought the Revolutionary War against the British were to “secure independence, protect rights, and establish a new nation based on the principles of self-governance, individual liberty, and representative democracy,” he said.

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Elloree Fourth of July

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Allen Reeves speaks during the Town of Elloree’s annual Independence Day celebration on Sunday, July 2, at Joe Miller Park.

“What does it mean to be an American today?” he asked. “We would struggle to get a consistent answer” from a sampling of Americans.

“It seems like all we see on TV is how divided we are as a nation, how much conflict there is between the citizens, and tomorrow’s news will be worse, so get used to it.

“I wish I had words to make you feel better about all that, but I don’t, except maybe we should turn off the TV and sit down on the front porch with a neighbor and have a cup of ice tea for an hour.

“I know, when we take the time to spend the time with each other, we certainly find that the things that unite us far outweigh the things that divide us.”

After living around the world during a nearly 30-year career, “my wife and I were so happy to find this little town to settle down in,” he said.

“I am proud to be here with you this evening. It’s an honor to stand with the folks of Elloree because you exemplify the values and virtues that make our nation great.”

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“We value the small-town values that you find here. Of course I’m talking about the tight-knit community. We love the strong sense of community where people know and support each other, where neighbors are involved in others’ lives. There is a deep sense of mutual respect and cooperation. I’m talking about trust and honesty. People rely on each other here. We find it works to keep our word, to maintain our integrity and to be accountable to each other.”

“How about a respect for tradition? I’m looking at the history museum. Elloree values respect for a traditional way of life, its customs, and local heritage. We take pride in preserving our culture and passing it down to the next generation.”

“We believe in hard work and self-reliance. It’s important to take personal responsibility and to contribute to the end.”

“We’re bound by these shared values in Elloree, a tight-knit community that has weathered the storms, celebrated the victories, and supported one another through thick and thin.”

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“We witness every day the heroes who embody the American spirit. It’s the volunteer firefighters who rush to protect our homes. It’s the teachers who guide and inspire our children. It’s the local businesses that fuel our economy, and it’s the countless individuals who contribute their time to make our community thrive.”

“While the world around us may change, the heart of our small town remains steadfast. … Let us renew our commitment to our small town and to our nation.”

“Elloree has seen generations grow and prosper, and we continue to embrace inclusivity and progress. It is in this unity that we find strength, for together, we can overcome any challenge and continue building a future that honors the sacrifices of those who came before us.”

“Let’s remember that patriotism is not a fleeting emotion, but a lifelong dedication to the principles that define us as a people and the ideals that make our little town of Elloree a truly magical place to live.”

“May this Fourth of July bring us joy, laughter, and a renewed sense of unity. Let us celebrate our small-town quirks and our shared love of this great nation. Happy Independence Day, everyone, and God bless you all.”

Upon graduating from the University of Georgia in 1994, Reeves was commissioned in the Air Force. He has served as an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) crew commander, Chief of Space War Games, Chief of Space Weapons and Tactics, and the Director of Space Forces for the Pacific theater.

Reeves commanded space operations units at multiple levels throughout the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Space Force. He led space planning efforts in support of Operation Southern Watch, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Before retiring, he was chief of staff for the 15th Air Force at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina, ensuring the operational readiness of more than 47,000 active-duty members worldwide.

Also participating in the patriotic program were Mayor Michael Fanning and council members Bill Brandenburg, Lakeisha Ellison, and Kim Gidron.

The Elloree Lions Club, Knights of Pythias, Pythian Sisters of Elloree Temple No. 4, and the Masons of Charity Lodge No. 62 sold food and beverages for the community picnic. The Elloree Heritage Museum & Cultural Center sold tickets. The First Baptist Church of Elloree also had a booth. Don Weidle served as the DJ.

The ADUSA (Food Lion) Distribution Center in Elloree provided hamburgers, hot dogs, drinks, condiments, plates and napkins. Mike’s Graphix of Orangeburg co-sponsored the fireworks display.

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