BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (WTVF) — Hot dogs, hamburgers and snacks galore usually make up the ingredients of a Fourth of July celebration. But that's not the only thing you can find in bulk at the Brentwood Costco.
"It’s especially gratifying for me being a military guy," said Herman Statum, a retired U.S. Army Ranger.
Dozens of veterans gather at the store every Friday to muse over the movements of the world or remember days gone by.
"Being that I’m retired, every day is a day I celebrate," said Thomas W. Tucker, a retired U.S. Army veteran.
Almost all of them have memories of July Fourth, especially back when they were about a fourth of their current age.
"Parties, fireworks of course, and a lot of watermelon," said Statum.
"We just took the days off and barbecued a little bit," remembered Tucker.
"Fourth of July parade is a big deal in my hometown. We all had to dress up, everyone put their flags on, pulling a wagon. The biggest thing — we always got free ice cream," said Mark Jurkovich, a retired Marine.
But time has marched on from those celebrations. Nashville's Riverfront Party has expanded from hundreds to hundreds of thousands. For some veterans, bigger is better.
"If I’m down there, I love going downtown," said Tucker.
"It’s good to see, it really is good to see, and I’m glad that we’re seeing a revival of that, quite frankly," said Statum.
But for Mark Jurkovich, he misses the intimacy of a small town soiree.
"The big cities seem to be… just too big. You don’t have that personal feeling at Fourth of July in the big cities," he said.
However you celebrate, these veterans say there are key ingredients beyond what you put on the grill.
"If you don’t remember what your past was, you won’t remember what your future is," said James Buford, who is a retired Navy and Marine, and served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Statum suggested Americans should reflect on those who sacrificed for the freedoms we enjoy.
"That’s what this country was founded on; that’s what this country is, and let’s hope it shall always be that way, and I think it will be," said the 81-year-old.
Jurkovich recommended never taking that freedom for granted. "It’s our country, we have to celebrate our country. We have a beautiful, wonderful country here," said the 91-year-old. And he would know.
"I’m first-generation American, my family came from Europe," said Jurkovich.
This is why, beyond patriotism and reflection, perhaps another key ingredient is wholesale wisdom.
"If they don’t know, read up and learn what it’s all about," said 94-year-old James Buford.
"No place on Earth like the United States. People have their differences — understandable — but nevertheless, we’ve got to be together. Whatever it is, we must be together for each other," said Jurkovich.
The group of veterans that meets at Costco calls themselves "Camp Costco." They meet every Friday at 11 a.m., and usually, a shopper or local business pays for all of their meals.