4th of July Post, 2005

229 years ago the second continental congress met in Philadelphia and finalized the Declaration of independence. That day the patriots of this nation proudly rose and declared in one strong unanimous voice to their oppressor that they would no longer abide the yoke of tyranny. That day this nation was born.

Brave men took up their rifles, leaving home, hearth and loved ones and marched into harm's way to secure the blessing of freedom for themselves and their progeny. Their blood was the birth price of this nation.

Three and a half decades later, the English returned, hoping to reinstate their king's dominion over the new born nation and again patriots took up arms and offered up their lives as a down payment for the freedom of their children. This war cemented the freedom that was won in the Revolutionary war.

in April of 1861, there came another war with the shots fired on Fort Sumpter. Again American patriots rose to the challenge and made the blood sacrifice. This time, their blood purchased the freedom of those enslaved in this nation.

Beginning on April 6th, 1917 American patriots again took up their arms. They sailed across the ocean to fight and die on foreign soil. They didn't come as conquerors. They didn't come to look for riches or expand an empire. They came to satisfy freedom's thirst for blood and to purchase freedom for the Europeans.

Not thirty years later, the Europeans however again needed aid to protect their freedom and again America's fathers sons and brothers responded to that call and willingly laid their lives upon freedom's altar.

To simplify what I'm saying, first we freed ourselves. Then we freed those held in servitude in our own nation and next we secured freedom for Europe. Our nation now is embarked on a battle to secure freedom for the people of the Middle East.

Now you might ask yourself, "Why is it our business to run around thinking we have to free everyone". The answer is quite simple. It all goes back to the document that started it all. It says:

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.

So we are charged by the very document that declared our own freedom to secure freedom for all mankind!

In 1941, the fourth of July was made a national holiday and we have celebrated it ever since. As things however normally go, we seem to easily loose sight of the true reason why we are celebrating. The fourth of July is intended to be a celebration of the gift of freedom. Now I'm sure some of my readers are going to think that I'm stating the obvious with those words, but perhaps I place a deeper meaning in them. Allow me to share if you will some of the things that make me revere freedom with such vehemence.

On the 16th of April, 1945 a man named Richard Bush and the 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 6th Marine Division was attempting to wrestle Mount Yaetake on the island of Okinawa from the Japanese defending it. Richard Bush lead his men up the face of that steep hill under intense artillery fire. He was the first into the Japanese defenses. The attack he lead evicted the Japanese from their trenches, but unfortunately Corporal Bush was wounded. He was evacuated to a small group of rocks that was serving as an aid station. While prostrate and under medical treatment, he witnessed an enemy grenade landing in the aid station. Without regard to his personal safety, Corporal Bush used his body to absorb the grenade's blast. Saving the lives of everyone else in the aid station.

On the 3rd of October, 1993 SFC Randall Shugart and MSgt Gary Gordon were involved in a fire fight in Mogadishu Somalia. They were flying in a helicopter acting as snipers when another helicopter was struck by an RPG and crashed into the city's hostile streets. They knew that there was little chance that any survivors on that blackhawk would survive long enough for reinforcements to arrive. Disregarding personal safety, they requested not once, but three times, that they be inserted at the crash site, knowing full well that it was likely to be a suicide mission as rescue and reinforcement would be hours in coming. When they arrived they found that all but Warrant Officer Michael Duran had perished in the crash. They pulled Duran from his stricken helicopter and fought valiantly to protect him in the face of impossible odds and overwhelming numbers. Neither survived but Michael Duran did, largely due to their efforts.

On the 4th of April, 2003 SFC Paul Smith together with his unit B Company of the 11th Engineer Battalion were located at Baghdad Airport in Iraq. He was engaged in building a holding facility for enemy prisoners of war when the location was assaulted by overwhelming numbers of members of the elite Republican Guard. The enemy assault threatened not only his unit but also an aid station located in the vicinity. When the track commander of an M113 armored personnel carrier was wounded in a mortar blast, SFC Smith mounted the vehicle's turret to man the M2 machinegun. There he exposed himself to withering enemy fire in the vehicle's turret, expending the macinegun's ammunition supply, and reloading under fire. He continued firing, until mortally wounded by a round in his neck. His actions repelled the enemy attack and saved many lives.

These are the tales of but four men. There are thousands more that tell similar tales of extraordinary heroism. These are the sort of price that freedom demands and that is why I revere freedom as much as I do, because I know the very high price at which it is purchased.

So this year, while you're sitting around attempting to digest that huge BBQ'ed feast and enjoying the fireworks display try to remember what this holiday is all about. Raise your beer in a toast to freedom. Take a moment to reflect on the men and women in harm's way right now trying to extend the gift of freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq. If it weren't for these selfless individuals you would not have the freedom that you now enjoy. Then pause a moment and realize how truly precious and priceless freedom really is. It can't be bought with money or talk. It can only be purchased with blood; the willingness of the very best amoung us to lay their lives on the line and if necessary to sacrifice themselves in its attainment. Lastly, take a moment to consider what you are doing with your freedom. Are your actions worthy of the heavy price that's been paid? How noble and selfless are your actions?

I guess I've said my piece, have a happy and safe fourth of July!

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