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Gene and Bobbie Carnell are well-known around the Swannanoa Valley, especially when they are dressed in their red, white and blue. The Carnells, along with their dog Scooter, can be seen in the annual Montreat Fourth of July Parade and other local events as Uncle Sam and Aunt Samantha.

This year as the Fourth of July approaches, the Carnells are not only celebrating our country’s independence, but also the publication of their All-American Series of children’s books. The first book in the series, “Symbols of Freedom,” has just been released and is available at innerquestbooks.com, Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

The books have been percolating in their hearts and minds for several years, they said, and have now been published to introduce a new generation of young Americans to patriotism and the importance of preserving the history of the United States. With this series of books the Carnells want to instill pride in the country and want to inspire and educate young people about the United States’ treasured past.

“We were both in grammar school during the WWII years,” Gene said. “Having experienced the trauma of Pearl Harbor does something to you. Pride and patriotism were like bread and butter and a part of our daily existence. 9/11 was a similar tragedy in many ways - a different enemy (that also showed) lack of love for mankind and was difficult to understand. The result was insecurity and fear. Our series attempts to rebuild trust and inspiration again, one small child at a time.”

The All-American series, published by innerQuest Books in Asheville, seeks to teach people to live respectfully and successfully. Each book, full of history and trivia about the United States, features some “Lessons for Life.”

“Symbols of Freedom,” the first book in the series, looks at pride. “The Big Picture,” the second book, considers patriotism. The third book, “The Big Parade,” takes up purpose. The fourth book, “Victory at the Vet’s,” looks at participation. The fifth, “All Aboard the Freedom Train,” examines providential care. (Book 2-5 are scheduled to be released later this summer.)

“Knowledge and information must be shared and passed on to each generation of ‘movers and shakers’ if America is to remain strong,” Gene said. “Reading and digesting previous events give us a link to our heritage and enable us to cope with tragedies and triumphs in the everyday events of now.”

Gene and Bobbie, married 65 years, are natives of Florida and now reside in Ridgecrest. On their way to Minnesota to see a new grandson, 9/11 happened. To help the healing process, they began to assume the roles of Uncle Sam and Aunt Samantha in costume, doing programs at schools, churches, civic clubs and festivals in about 100 venues in six states.

The Carnells were presented with an award from Congress in 2002 for “invaluable service to the community.” Look for them — and Scooter — in this year’s Montreat Fourth of July parade.

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