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Freedom comes at a high price

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Although these words – along with the remainder of the Declaration of Independence document – did not officially become a part of American history until August of 1776 (due to having all the signatures in place), July 4th, 1776 was the day that members of the Continental Congress commemorated its formal adoption. Thusly, Independence Day was officially born as the “baby-faced” United States of America cut its umbilical cord from “mother” England.

Two-hundred and thirty-nine years later, we still enjoy the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, thanks to millions of men and women – many who made the greatest sacrifice, the loss of their lives – who have protected our freedoms through their military service.

While we have Memorial Day and Veterans Day to pause and say thank-you to these brave men and women, the foundation of this great nation, one constructed in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, would have crumbled long ago without their unyielding sense of duty as well as love and devotion of country.

But for every drop of blood shed on a battlefield in some strange, far-away land and for every widow who has stood weeping over a flag-draped coffin, there are other times when loyal Americans find themselves with a lump in their throat and tears welling-up in their eyes.

September 11, 2001 was one of those heartbreaking moments in the annals of American history. There, through the electronic media, we sat in stunned silence while those who hate our way of life sank their dagger straight into heart of the “Red, White and Blue.”

So many innocent lives, both in the air and one the ground, were lost that day – men, women, and even children, who never knew they wouldn’t live to see Sept. 12.

The victims of this cowardly act of terrorism were of the same flesh of people we see each and every day here in the Roanoke-Chowan area – moms and dads, sons and daughters, bankers, lawyers, secretaries, schoolchildren, firefighters, policemen, etc. They could have been our co-workers, our neighbors, our friends or our family. Even though they were not, they were our kindred brothers and sisters in the sense of being Americans.

Now, almost 14 years removed, September 11 holds just as much patriotism as does July 4th. Although we paid an extreme price for it, Sept. 11 was America’s wake-up call. We had become too complacent with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our way of protecting our freedom through military might had become more of sophisticated, electronic gadgetry rather than soldiers crawling on their bellies, making their way, inch by bloody inch, up a hill fortified with enemy firepower.

We thought this great nation was immune to acts of terror, but we were wrong. There are those in this world who want to snatch away our unalienable rights, perhaps for the simple reason that the leaders of their political or religious causes failed to build their foundations upon the same strong words found in our Declaration of Independence.

As we gather on Saturday of this week to watch a patriotic parade, listen to a flag-waving speech, take in an eye-pleasing display of fireworks or to just sit back and relax during a day away from the office, please take just a moment or two to remember those, past and present, whose lives were sacrificed in order for us to enjoy the freedoms granted us by our forefathers 239 years ago. Let’s also pause and say a prayer for our brave military men and women who are “standing the watch” to ensure we can gather peacefully and freely on July 4th and every other day.

We all need to hope and pray those freedoms now protected by our service men and women will never again be taken for granted because they are afforded to us at an extremely steep price.

 Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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