On July 4, 1776 the people of what would eventually become the United States of America rebelled against what many of them believed to be a tyrannical and oppressive empire. In declaring their independence, the founding fathers committed an act of treason punishable by death. It was a dangerous and binding decision. So great was their conviction and belief in freedom, that they were willing to risk everything in the pursuit of it.
As a result of their actions and the ensuing war for independence, America eventually gained its freedom from Great Britain. The 4th of July is meant to remind us of this act. It is meant to allow us as a nation a pause in our normal routine to reflect on the absolute courage and sacrifice which was necessary to give birth to so great a country.
Sadly I have personally found that most people I talk to reflect more on the typical holiday activities of fun in the sun and fireworks. The 4th of July has become a commercialized excuse to take a day off from work. I fear that we have forgotten much of what the true meaning is.
I have spent four 4th of July celebrations at war both in Iraq and Afghanistan. To some that may sound like a lot but the truth of the matter is that a great many service members, past and present, could say the same. I can tell you from my personal observations that the true meaning of the 4th of July has not been lost on those brave men and women deployed in defense of our freedom.
The 4th of July isn’t a day off while at war. You are still on guard. Maybe even more so on the 4th . Waiting to see if the enemy will try to take advantage of a perceived vulnerability. Even at the larger bases where famous singers fly in and where dinning facilities allow for veritable feasts to be served, there is still a feeling of alertness and caution. Few forget that complacency kills.
When one realizes that their life is on the line for freedom the holiday takes on a much deeper meaning. I have found that there is often a reflection on what is missed back home. One finds that their small sacrifice in a seemingly god forsaken land matters. There is justification in missing the traditional activities of the 4th of July for oneself so that others can enjoy them, often without any care to the service member so far from home.
When I reflect on the 4th of July I think more about the sacrifices so many make to allow those of us at home to enjoy the day off. Rather than a focus on fun and sun during the 4th of July, I believe we as a nation need to spend just a bit more time reflecting on the courage and sacrifices that bring freedom into the world. A small act of support such as making a care package to send to a service member or donating to a military charity would make a great addition to the steaks on the grill and fireworks in the sky.
The 4th of July reminds me that it is critically important that we never forget how blessed we are to have so few sacrificing for so many. To remember that freedom comes at a cost. And to pay respect to those who are not able to celebrate our nation’s birthday the way they would like to. What is most important, is to remember that on the 4th of July freedom isn’t free and that we should all take a moment to recognize those who defend it and have the courage to risk everything in the pursuit of it.