This Fourth of July, we were inspired to round up some of the amazing men and women featured on Huff/Post50 who have declared “I am independent!” over the past year.

We've been awed and encouraged by the stories of people like David McGiffert, who took a step back from a rewarding career in Hollywood to help his daughter pursue her own dreams, and Sandra Locke, who became one of the oldest people to complete the U.S. Army's basic combat training at 51.

On a day where we think about our nation striking out on its own, we salute these men and women for doing the very same thing. From building new and fulfilling careers to getting in shape and going back to school, these 10 stories have inspired us all to take risks and embrace the spirit of the July 4 holiday by declaring ourselves independent from convention, fear and ennui.

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  • Mark Noonan: A Tragedy Became His Wakeup Call

    <em>"I realized that I didn't want to spend the second half of my life the way I had spent the first."</em> In 2004, Mark Noonan was a 52-year-old executive in the high-tech industry who routinely worked 60-hour weeks. After his wife died in a freak accident, he turned his life around. For the full story click <a href="" target="_blank">here.</a>

  • Kathe LeBeau: Went To Clown College After Life-Threatening Diagnosis

    <em>"I've always been that sort of person who enjoys kidding around and having fun."</em> After a kidney disease diagnosis, Kathe LeBeau, 50, found a flier in the mail promoting a 12-week clowning class at a local community college. And that's how she found her calling. For the ful story click<a href="" target="_blank"> here.</a>

  • John Kerr: Went From TV Exec To Park Ranger

    <em>"Suddenly, I had landed in heaven." </em> Eight years ago, John Kerr, 74, had no idea what to do next when he retired from his job as a public television executive in Boston at age 65. After flummoxing around for about a month, he put his belongings in storage, loaded up his camper truck and drove west to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He landed a job as a park ranger. For the full story click <a href="" target="_blank">here.</a>

  • Amy Voelker: Moved On After Unimaginable Tragedy

    <em>"I'm able to look forward."</em> A few years ago, Amy Voelker was enjoying a getaway with her extended family at a rental house in Redington Beach, Florida when her husband and three sons were killed in a car accident. Through exercise and training and the support of friends and family, Voelker has found a new vision of herself. Full the full story go <a href="" target="_blank">here.</a>

  • Stephanie Sanoja: Turned Her Great-Aunt's Recipe Into A Career

    <em>"Sometimes I'd joke with my friends about creating a Bloody Mary company... But then reality would set in, Monday would come along and we'd all go back to our advertising jobs."</em> Stephanie Sanoja left an unfulfilling job in her forties to take a gamble on turning her great-aunt Gladys' Bloody Mary recipe into a career. Today you can buy Garden District Bloody Marys throughout Texas and Louisiana. For the full story click <a href="" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Teresa Pitts: Went Back To School At 46 And Earned Her College Degree

    <em>"My dad called tonight. He said I did a good thing and I was a go-getter like my mom. This is the best day of my life."</em> At age 46, Teresa Pitts challenged herself to go back to school, and earned her bachelor's degree from UCLA with honors. Read the full story <a href="" target="_hplink">here</a>. photo courtesy of <a href="" target="_hplink">UCLA fan page</a>

  • David McGiffert: From Hollywood To Full-Time Dad

    <em>"Up came the lights -- just in a different area." </em> At age 70, David McGiffert declared his independence by walking away from Hollywood to help his daughter achieve her own dreams of competing on the U.S. National Team for rhythmic gymnastics. He now accompanies her to competitions and training camps, and helps her manage an otherwise impossible schedule of school, training and competition. Read the full story <a href="" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • John Locke: Took On A Second Career In His Own Way (And Sold More Than A Million Ebooks)

    <em>"I work in my own style, on the schedule I want; if I write what I want, people will sense the fun in it." </em> This 61-year-old Kentucky novelist was the first self-published author to sell more than a million digital books on with his pulp fiction series "Donovan Creed," which follows a former CIA agent. For the full story click <a href="" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Linda Tabach: Went From Couch Potato To Half-Marathon Runner

    <em>"No matter how old you are, it is not too late to change."</em> At age 52, Linda Tabach ditched her lifelong couch potato lifestyle for a healthier alternative. Tabach began eating a healthy diet, hit her goal weight and ran her first half-marathon. For the full story click <a href="" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Robin Bobbé: Became A Model At Age 60

    <em>"I am here to tell women, you are never too old to pursue your dreams. I never felt better in my life. I am 60, hear me roar."</em> After a life spent on the other side of the lens, first as a stylist and later in commercial photography, Robin Bobbé decided to "[reconnect] with that exciting part of myself," and became the new face of 60 as a model. For the full story click <a href="" target="_hplink">here</a>. photo courtesy of <a href="" target="_hplink"></a>

  • Paula Shuman: Revived Her Childhood Dream After Over Two Decades

    <em>"The girls at the rink say I'm the only one on the East Coast doing death spirals at my age... This is a part of my soul..."</em> Although she knew from childhood that her heart lay in figure skating, Paula Shuman was convinced it wasn't a realistic career path and became a radiographer instead. She kept skating though, and when an old friend offered to coach her 20 years later, she fulfilled her childhood dream. For the full story click <a href="" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Margaret Miller: Stayed True To Herself Through Marriage And Motherhood

    <em>"Just do one little thing that's meaningful to you. Break out of the box and you'll see, it can change your life."</em> Margaret Miller started by ending an unhappy marriage, then trained for a marathon -- then began travelling the world. "Part of me was hidden away for so long. It was almost like I was introducing myself to my family," she said. For the full story click <a href="" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Steven Levy: Lost 163 Pounds

    <em>"I am living proof that anything is possible."</em> Tipping the scale at 320 pounds, the former chain smoking talent manager took hold of his life and health and underwent gastric bypass surgery seven years ago. Now he's the very picture of health, exercising and working with a trainer to keep off the weight. Read the full story <a href="" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Sandra Coast: Completed Army Basic Training

    <em>"Everybody in the world thinks I am a total nutcase. I just want to support our troops."</em> Coast served in the Navy from 1982 to1993, leaving the force to raise her son. But when she accompanied her son to an Army recruitment office so he could enlist, Coast asked to sign up as well. At 51 she became one of the oldest people to complete basic combat training. Read the full story <a href="" target="_hplink">here</a>.

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