Tomorrow we honor the 4 of July – Independence Day – with fireworks, picnics and parties galore. It is a day of celebration but also one of remembrance.
It is remembrance that once upon a time in this great nation, groups of discontented citizens banded together in rag tag groups of armed military, under one leadership, to fight against the depression and tyrannical rule of an island nation across the oceans. These untrained brave souls fought with a ferocity against an ancient nation that had well-trained legions of military soldiers at their disposal, having defended their island from Roman legions, Celts and French invaders.
The Continental Army was formed on June 14, 1775 and created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in their revolt against the rule of Great Britain, under the leadership of General George Washington, our first commander-in-chief. The Continental Army was supplemented by local militias and other troops that remained under control of the individual states.
But this Army was fought by one hundred percent volunteers with burning hearts, wills of steel and determination as these men, women and children fought nobly and boldly for the freedom of their families and homes. It was “fight or die.”
On June 15, 1776 the Second Continental Congress embraced the inevitability of the war that had really already come, and elected George Washington as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Congress. Newly elected Commander Washington rode out that same week to unite the regiments of the 13 states into 26 companies of the Continental Army.
George Washington commanded the Continental Army all through the Revolutionary War. The Continental Army remained all volunteers through the end of the war.
After the Revolutionary War, a few men still signed on to be a part of the United States militia. They remained on standby, until June 3, 1784. There was a lot of debate as to whether or not America should even have an army. Some men such as Thomas Jefferson felt there was no need for a standing army during peacetime, but others such as Alexander Hamilton felt that having protection in the case of an emergency would be wise.
Congress created the official United States Army, and they were granted a military base and training grounds. From there the new American Army grew and eventually formed into the military we have today and those who served were loosely termed “Veterans”.
For those of us who can trace our lineage back to the landing at Plymouth Rock or the colonization of our first “thirteen states”, we have had ancestors who were associated with the military strength of America for over 200 years.
Our nation is young compared to the rest of the world, but we are a nation of might and strength, tolerance and diversity – we are independent, under no one’s rule. Look at the symbols that we chose to represent the United States of America.
The bald eagle, a bird of prey, scanning the skies for all those who dare challenge its might. With wings spread wide, it soars to great heights and swoops down upon its enemies with swiftness and determination – never taking its eyes off of its target.
The Statute of Liberty stands tall and battle worn in the harbor of New York, beckoning for those who are tired, poor and discontented to seek shelter under her watchful eye. She stands as a reminder that those citizens she protects will rise against all who try to invade her beloved territory.
The American Flag a symbol of our heritage with thirteen stripes for the original colonies and fifty stars for the united states that are America. Our flag flies in freedom symbolizing American nationalism and rejection of secessionism from storefronts to government buildings, from homes to village greens and worn with pride and honor by our military forces. Our flag unites our citizens under one banner – although there may be dissension in the ranks among us at times – but when attacked, we will group together and the “sleeping giant” awakens.
These are the symbols that our active duty military have under fought for centuries, sometimes to the last breath and that our Veterans have given and sacrificed throughout their lives – all for the simple word – INDEPENDENCE!
So tomorrow as you have celebrations with your families and friends and the fireworks light up the skies, take a minute and a silent prayer for those who gave and continue to give their lives in defense of those who are left behind. They still defend their homes and their families with the ferocity and will of steel that our forefathers did at Valley Forge. They fight so you live in freedom! Honor those who have gone before with thanksgiving on this momentous occasion.