The commemorative aspect of our national holiday may be getting less and less with the true meaning of the day becoming obscured with each passing generation. Freedom is an enormous gift that all Americans enjoy, but frequently take for granted. The benefits gained from the Revolutionary War and the Constitutional guarantees have to be won again and again in order to be preserved. Each generation has had to do that and has done it.
This country has engaged in many military conflicts: The Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam, Desert Storm and the War on Terror. In each case, men at first, then, indeed, women were willing to risk and even sacrifice their life to preserve independence and civil liberties. They were willing to give, and in overwhelming numbers at that, what President Lincoln called “the full measure of devotion.”
Each person killed during any of these wars was loved by someone. Each one had potential and dreams to fulfill. The loss would leave an emptiness and a hurt so deep that no amount of time could completely ease, heal, or erase. Those left to mourn, to grieve, to remember and honor were friends, wives, sweethearts, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, but most of all, fathers and mothers, especially mothers.
When I taught in the local junior high school and introduced my students to Anne Frank, both “The Dairy of a Young Girl” and the play with a similar title, I told them that she and I were the same age. Anne, the Jewish girl whose people were in danger of extinction at the hands of the Nazis, went into hiding in Amsterdam as an eighth grader and I was in the same grade when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
My classmates and I heard President Franklin D. Roosevelt announce over the radio that the United States had declared war on Japan and the Axis Powers. Additionally, he said the day would “live in infamy.” The student body was gathered into the Harlan High School auditorium and at the time, had no way of understanding the impact or the consequences of that historical move. It wasn’t long, however, before telegrams were delivered to families from the War Department with a message beginning with these words, “We regret to inform you…”
I want to thank each and every person who has served and sacrificed so that freedom and independence are still realities in the United States of America. As long as I live, I will honor their memory. How can we ever thank our service men and women enough for their devotion to duty and country? They have made it possible for us to celebrate Independence Day, the Fourth of July, in peace and prosperity. However you choose to celebrate the holiday, please try to pause for a moment to remember and honor all those who have served and especially those who gave the supreme sacrifice, their life, for their country.