GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - They share a passion for patriotism and antique military vehicles. A group called the Mississippi Coast Watchers held its annual "flag run" on this Fourth of July.
They proudly waved the flag while driving their vintage vehicles from Bay St. Louis to Gautier. It's a Fourth of July tradition for the Mississippi Coast Watchers.
These fiercely patriotic owners of old military vehicles take pleasure in celebrating America while sharing stories about their military jeeps and trucks.
"Just getting together with the other folks in the club here, and just going out having a good time and meeting all the folks and spectators that are out and about appreciating what we do," said Jeff Green, while sitting in the driver's seat of his military vehicle.
On this hot July Independence day, Jerry Dildy is thankful his World War I uniform is made of cotton rather than wool. For Dildy and so many other club members, it's all about freedom.
"Oh, it's great. Show the people the vehicles and everything that made everything free," said Dildy.
"We're proud of these things. Mine is not quite as pretty as some of the other ones, but it runs pretty doggone good," said George Casey, who saved his 1942 Willys from a hunting camp for $2,000.
Several years and spare parts later, it's still rolling along.
"Mine's really a put together Jeep, but I put my four grand babies in it and go do a parade, and they have the greatest time," said Casey.
Rufus Smith carries on the legacy of his father with his 1943 Willys. James Monroe Smith was a member of the "greatest generation." The number of his military unit is painted on his son's jeep.
"The 29th Division, which went in on D-Day. He was part of the 175th Infantry, K-Company, and he was wounded twice in the European campaign," Smith explained.
That freedom fought for and defended by generations of soldiers is what drives this group on this Fourth of July.
"We drive down the Coast and show the flag. It's Independence Day. It's the country's birthday. Everybody appreciates it, and we appreciate them coming out to see us," said Len Krapcha.
The name for the club, Mississippi Coast Watchers, comes from a bit of military history. During World War II, they were the people who watched the sea and sky along the Coast for any possible enemy ships or planes.