This is the week that we in America celebrate our independence. It was in 1776 that a courageous group of men listed the colonies’ grievances against the King of Britain, carefully building a case for all this paragraph holds:
“We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. – And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence risked treason — the penalty for which was hanging. Benjamin Franklin adroitly punned that punishment when he remarked to some anxious signers, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
These men were willing to risk their lives for freedom. And on this Independence Day, let’s remember their courage and commitment, and be grateful for it.
A few years ago, I visited the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On just one day — December 7, 1941 — 1,177 crew members lost their lives when the ship went down in a direct act of war. Today, if you visit the memorial, you can still see oil bubbling up from below — and you can still feel the spirit of those who gave their all that day.
In all of World War II, some 407,000 Americans were killed in combat. In Korea, 36,940 were lost. In Vietnam, 58,486 gave their lives. In Desert Storm, 255 died. And, to date, in Afghanistan and Iraq, 3,965 Americans have fallen.
And, over 88,000 Americans are still listed as Missing In Action from these wars. Eighty-eight thousand husbands, wives, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers. Loved ones, all.
This Independence Day, let’s take a moment to thank all who have served, all who have died — those who are still missing, and the families and communities who have loved, supported, and, too often, buried, our soldiers.
Today, America still produces men and women — much in the spirit of the Founders — who are willing to risk their lives for freedom. And on this Independence Day, let’s remember their courage and commitment, and be grateful for it.