EL PASO, Texas -

Vietnam veteran paratroopers at the "All Airborne" Veterans of Foreign Wars near Fort Bliss sit around a table, laughing, drinking cold beer and talking the country they know and love.

Retired E-7 Benny Nunez joined the Army in the late 50's -- not because he wanted to. He needed the job. But it was after serving and seeing combat that he learned the meaning of patriotism.

"I love my country because I'm free! This is our country! God Bless America!" Nunez said.

Joe "China Boy" Lopez, a retired Sergeant First Class, doesn't blame his country for sending him into the pit of the Viet Cong-run jungles as a guerrilla combat commander. He says we'd all benefit it more people followed his example.

"Those who have never ever served, they don't understand what this country is about," Lopez said. "It's because of the soldier that we have the freedom of the press, the freedom to do anything. We have the freedom because of the soldier, not because of civilians."

Across Fort Bliss military families settle in a Biggs Park, playing, eating and preparing for the El Paso Symphony Orchestra. First Lt. John Clements, his wife and two-year-old son enjoy the fourth by frolicking in the pool, something seemingly simple, but a luxury nonetheless.

"With the experience of being in other countries, seeing how they operate, for those who haven't experienced that, it's taken for granted. The freedom of just being able to be here with our families -- that's what the fourth of July means," Clement said.