July 4th. Every country has it, but only one country – the United States – celebrates it as a holiday. It’s official name is Independence Day. As Americans we tend to just refer to the day as “The Fourth” which in some ways enables us to forget the reason why it’s even a holiday. It is a sad day if we ever get consumed with enjoying it without remembering why the 4th of July is so important and what it took to make it a reason to celebrate.
Last night I attended the “American past time” called a baseball game. As with all sports games in the U.S. the game didn’t officially start until the National Anthem was sung. Call me a sap, but I always cry at this song! Especially when I look to see where the incredible voice is coming from and discover it’s a boy who probably just finished the 3rd grade. Then throughout the evening they honored a few veterans who were in attendance. One served in Vietnam while another one served during World War II. Someone else was a Brigadier General who had been in the military for 26 years. And yet another one was a recipient of not one, but three purple hearts. The game paused while each one was thanked with a standing ovation that included a whole bunch of hooting and hollering.
It wasn’t until the grand finale with fireworks when I fully remembered what we were supposed to be celebrating. Our freedom! I realize we are not the only free country in the world, but we have a special kind of freedom. It’s the kind we don’t keep to ourselves. We first fought to have our freedom and independence from the tyranny of England. Then throughout the years, we have protected that freedom by helping other countries retain theirs, like the two world wars.
While he didn’t experience any combat due to the timing of the armistice being signed, my grandfather served in France during World War I. As he was preparing to return to the States, he received a booklet from the French government called, “To the Homeward-Bound Americans.” It was France’s way of saying thank you to the U.S. soldiers for helping them keep the Germans from taking over Europe. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:
At the most critical moment of the struggle which had lasted for three years against German imperialism, you came as strong youths into a country where the young had perished. To the weeping you brought a smile, to those who had been despoiled your generosity restored hope, to the fatherless children you offered joy. The summing up of these recollections must remain an inspiration to you and to those who follow you, in all future efforts.
Not all war is about living free…some have been fought over boundaries or who’s going to be in charge. It doesn’t matter what your political views are or what your opinion is about war. The fact remains: without war, you wouldn’t have the freedom to publicly express those views. By fighting in both world wars, we kept our own freedom by giving freedom to Europe and other parts of the world. Freedom isn’t free, though. Millions of people have sacrificed for it. Some sacrificed their limbs, their relationships, their sight, and many with their very lives. Whether you agree with war and helping other countries fight for their freedom or not, those who have made sacrifices deserve our respect and thanks. Let’s not forget the cost of our freedom. I personally take pride in being an American as well as thankful I was born in this country.
So what does independence mean? It means freedom! Freedom from tyranny. Freedom to make our own decisions. Freedom from bondage. Freed to travel where we want. Freedom from suppression. Freedom to have our own opinions and to express them. Freedom from conformity. Freedom to be who we are no matter how different we are from others.
Let’s join together in the Braveheart cry: FREEDOM!!