By Mark W. Danielson
On July 4th, our nation celebrated its 236th anniversary from British rule. Independence Day, as it’s known, became a national holiday in 1870 so that it would forever be recognized. Much has changed since 1776, particularly during my lifetime. There is no doubt we are still an evolving nation.
Depending upon one’s point of view, “independence” has many definitions. Country singer Martina McBride’s song Independence Day concerned a battered woman freeing herself from her abusive husband. Hollywood made a movie of the same title about an alien invasion. For parents and their children, independence may be declared when a child moves out and becomes self-sufficient. But for our country in present day, true independence will only be regained once we are debt free and no longer involved in overseas conflicts.
The USA Today recently ran an article about the last two soldiers killed in Vietnam. Most people have no recollection of the rocket attack on Saigon’s airport on April 29, 1975, that killed two Marines, but these men died for the country suddenly and without notoriety. This article also compared our ten-year conflict in Afghanistan to Vietnam as another war with unclear goals where we are negotiating with undefined leaders. And while we are discussing retreating from this impoverished region, things are heating up in Syria, Iran, Israel, and Egypt. Meanwhile our national debt continues to soar while the notion of independence dwindles. Sadly, most Americans have no concerns over this war. After all, the grocery stores are full, gas prices are falling, and life is good while the names of those who have died or been maimed for their country fail to register except for those who knew them.
To most, Independence Day is a celebration – a day off to drink beer and grill tube steaks and burgers on the barbie. They watch the fireworks with awe without any thought to the wars we fought to retain our freedom. Although the first public fireworks display was on July 4, 1777, it was Francis Scott Key’s “bombs bursting in air” phrase from in his poem about the 1814 Fort McHenry attack that brought meaning to our colorful pyrotechnics. And when the National Anthem in sung at public events, it is unlikely that most who are mouthing the words understand their significance. Considering that the majority of Americans, particularly our nation’s leaders, have never served in the military, this disconnect is understandable, but no one can appreciate the true price of freedom without first recognizing our struggles and losses.
Perhaps the greatest thing about celebrating the 4th of July is that for one brief moment we become “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Our Forefathers welcomed people of all races and countries as Americans. People became united under one flag. So if for one day out of each year, people can set their former country’s flags aside to salute our own Stars and Stripes, then the grill parties are worthwhile. Just remember that there is still a war going on and our volunteer military force is out there willing to die for the freedom our Forefathers believed in.
(Photo courtesy USCG)