As we celebrate yet another Independence Day holiday with family, picnics, fireworks and other festivities, let us take a moment to remember the significance of this date – the Fourth of July.
Not so long ago, a bloody struggle between the world's most powerful nation and a rebellious army of soldiers disturbed the peace of the world. These rebels were inspired and led by a fugitive band of radical revolutionaries who had successfully stirred the citizenry into a clamor of violence. The war lingered on for some time, casualties were high, and the rebellion was becoming expensive for the superpower, both financially and politically. Nonetheless, the great superpower stood firm in its commitment to crush the rebellion and restore peace and order.
But George Washington had another idea. Taking his small band of soldiers to a Pennsylvania settlement called Valley Forge for the winter, he pondered the incredible, inconceivable task which stood before him. Although those in his command called him general, this ragtag collection was anything but an experienced army. Washington's men were silversmiths, merchants, farmers, blacksmiths, lawyers, businessmen, frontiersmen and pioneers. They knew very little about waging military campaigns, and worse, they were hungry, unpaid, ill, tired, homesick...and they were desperate.
Washington's letter to Congress, fall of 1777: "We find ourselves...at Valley Forge, within a day's march of the enemy, with a little more than a third of their strength, unable to defend our position, or retreat from it. Our men are almost naked, totally unprepared for the inclemency of the approaching winter...the mode of [obtaining] supplies is difficult, and reports from the officers employed in collecting them are gloomy."
When George Washington finally wrote, "I believe the game is nearly up," it was a new breed of men who grabbed their muskets and, with little more than grim determination, continued the fight. It was this group of men to which General Nathaniel Greene referred when he wrote, "we fight, get beat, rise and fight again."
Their personal sacrifice was incredible. Stories were told to us in grade school of the men in the snow without shoes. But these stories seldom mention the painful frostbite or the stained snow from bleeding feet. They rarely recall the wounded, the sick and the men who died both in and out of battle. The stories seldom tell how they painfully reenlisted, or how they bravely fought against the world's greatest military power which, many times, left them fighting at three-to-one odds.
The soldiers of the revolution literally defined what it meant to be an American. They had no example of what an American was, but they had a tremendous idea of what they wanted us to be.
Let us not forget the sacrifice and dreams of these men and women as we define what it means to be an American in 2012. Let us also remember the cost of freedom and liberty as other countries around the world struggle to obtain the freedom that we are fortunate to have.
To every continental soldier who knelt behind a fence to fire a musket, for every wife who lost a husband, for every parent who lost a son, and every regiment who marched toward the uncertainty of battle...
To every soldier who lost his life during the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War and the War on Terror, as well as countless engagements around the world...
To every man or woman who left the security and comfort of their home to travel across the world in defense of America and our foreign allies, for those who never returned, and for those who will spend this Independence Day protecting our freedom and liberty...
The greatest honor we can bestow upon these Americans would be to live for the things for which they died; to resolve with courage and determination, to keep our country free; and to thank God for the great blessings he has bestowed, and continues to bestow, upon our country.