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 forty-five 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.
That “protection” included perhaps one of the most significant battles that helped shape who were are today and the flag under which we stand.
In August of 1814, during our second war with Great Britain, the mighty English Army invaded Washington, DC where they set fire to the White House and other buildings that comprised the U.S. Government.
One month later, the British set their sights on capturing the port of Baltimore. If successful, they would have controlled a key position on the East Coast from where other attacks by land and sea could easily follow.
On the night of Sept. 13, 1814, the British Navy unleashed their firepower at Fort McHenry. Over a stretch of 24 hours, in excess of 1,500 mortar shells rained down on the fort….surely all was lost for the Americans. But as the sun rose the following morning over a smoke-filled sky, the American Flag – although tattered and torn – was still intact over the fort’s ramparts….promoting a poem from Francis Scott Key that was later adopted as our National Anthem.
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. Just think about this for a moment, had we lost our battle vs. England – who in 1776 and again in 1812 possessed the strongest armed forces in the entire world – those that signed the Declaration of Independence would have been branded as traitors and hung from the gallows.
And, we kept on fighting for freedom across the globe in the aftermath of gaining our independence. 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 on the ground, were lost that day – men, women, and even children, who never knew they wouldn’t live to see Sept. 12.
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 this coming weekend 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 whose lives were sacrificed in order for us to enjoy the freedoms granted us by our forefathers 245 years ago. Let’s also pause and say a prayer for our brave men and women currently in uniform….those standing watch over our “ramparts” of today.
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 the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-332-7207.