INDEPENDENCE Day celebrations in Quincy on Wednesday blended patriotism and gratitude for those who have served, with special emphasis on the Illinois National Guard that helped fight the flood of 1993.
Retired Maj. Gen. Don Lynn, who commanded about 7,000 troops during flood-fighting efforts spoke at 8 p.m. at the riverfront ceremony, just before the 144th Army Band performed. Lynn also had spoken at 3 p.m. at the Quincy Readiness Center.
Lynn told how unified the region was during the flood. Troops were told repeatedly how much farmers and levee officials appreciated their help. Thankful community residents and cooks constantly brought cakes, cookies and other snacks to the guardsmen.
"Before the levee broke at Hull, the guys were sleeping at night in the school. They would set their laundry in the hallway with their name on it, and by the next day one of the local ladies had done the laundry for them," Lynn told The Herald-Whig.
That unity extended far beyond this region.
Lynn now lives near Champaign and still runs into people from there who made the trek to Quincy 25 years ago to help fill sandbags, shore up river levees or help in other ways.
He remembers other volunteers coming in from other states.
Lynn also told how much levee district officials and leaders in numerous cities taught the National Guard about fighting floods, evacuating homes or entire cities and following a game plan.
Thanks to thousands of extra hands, strong backs and young legs, many levees were saved. And even in the cases where a levee failed, it usually helped lower the river levels temporarily -- giving hope to flood fighters in neighboring levee districts.
Yes, the National Guard troops did heroic work 25 years ago, fighting an enemy that could not be fully defeated. Instead, they worked shoulder to shoulder with local workers, visiting volunteers and work camp inmates who also did heroic work trying to fight the river to a draw wherever possible.
The Fourth of July, always a time to consider the sacrifices of freedom fighters, was enhanced as the region honored flood fighters.