Commemorating the true meaning of Independence Day (with photos)

By Erika Mahoney

July 4, 2013 Updated Jul 4, 2013 at 11:31 PM EST

Town of Union, NY (WBNG Binghamton) In cities and towns across America Thursday, people celebrated the Fourth of July with barbecues, outdoor activities, and of course, fireworks.

At Highland Park in Endwell, it was no different.

Amidst the lawn chairs, lemonade and aroma of funnel cakes, the Steinhausers remembered to keep military families in their hearts.

"We actually read a Fourth of July book about what American freedom means this morning, the girls and I did that, and they decorated the whole house and yard with flags," said Michele Steinhauser, wife and mother of two girls.

"We're trying to honor our country, to support people who are in the military," Sylvia Steinhauser said.

That includes their cousins, neighbors and even strangers, like the Schott family, celebrating at Highland Park, too.

"I was on active duty for 10 years, I went over to Kosovo, I've been to Iraq," Sgt. 1st Class Marc Schott said.

Schott said he is always proud to wear the American flag on his shoulder, and days like Thursday highlight the roots of the stars and stripes.

"It means celebrating our country, celebrating the independence of our country. It's a genuine sense of pride, I suppose," Schott said. "This morning, the local boy scouts read the actual Declaration of Independence. You think about the words, the meaning of those words."

"For me, Fourth of July is enjoying the day with my family, and recognizing the people who sacrifice, also my husband," Destiny Schott said. "Just getting to enjoy family time, which is much needed, with my husband's work, he works a lot."

Schott said he has noticed a renewed sense of patriotism this year.

"It goes all the way back to the actual day, but it's because of people that we have our independence, and we have the freedom," Samantha Salvatore said. "We can all spend the day like we do because people have given their time and lives for us."

It's a day to look back on the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, but also a day to honor the sacrifices that provide the freedom to celebrate.