Vol: 25 Issue: 3 Monday, July 3, 2017
July 4th is particularly sweet for me this year. As I contemplate all that America has given me, it occurs to me that giving is the essence of America. It is what defines us as a people. It is the foundational characteristic of this country, and the country is never happier than when it has a chance to give.
More than 700 Americans gave their all in the effort to give Iraqis their freedom. That’s seven hundred American families who gave their sons and daughters, seven hundred men and women who gave their lives, thousands more who gave up a limb, not for oil, not for gain, but to give the greatest gift of all: Freedom.
America sent its sons and daughters to Vietnam because the Communist North threatened to impose itself on the South. The politicians and the media each had their own agendas, but the cause for which America sacrificed fifty-six thousand young men and women was freedom.
Fifty-two thousand men went to the other side of the world where they gave their lives fighting to protect the freedom of the South Korean peninsula.
America sent millions of its young men to Europe in 1942 to restore freedom to the countries occupied by the Nazi hordes. Four hundred and eight THOUSAND Americans never came home. Another six hundred thousand were wounded.
In one blood-soaked year, one hundred and sixteen THOUSAND Americans gave their lives to save the French during World War I. Not one of these conflicts were fought for conquest. Americans asked for no more land than was necessary to bury their dead.
America was founded by men who valued freedom so deeply that the Declaration of Independence, signed 228 years ago today, concluded with the solemn oath, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
Of the fifty-six signers of the Declaration, nine gave their lives in battle, never tasting the freedom they bought with their lives. Five were captured by the British. Eighteen were totally ruined.
Lewis Morris of New York had his estate destroyed by the British, his cattle butchered, and his family sent fleeing for their lives. William Floyd and his family became refugees for seven years. Floyd’s wife didn’t survive the war.
Carter Braxton of Virginia, an aristocratic planter who had invested heavily in shipping, saw most of his vessels captured by the British navy. His estates were largely ruined, and by the end of his life he was a pauper.
Thomas Nelson Jr. of Virginia raised $2 million for the patriots’ cause on his own personal credit. The government never reimbursed him, and repaying the loans wiped out his entire estate. During the battle of Yorktown, his house, which had been seized by the British, was occupied by General Cornwallis.
Nelson quietly urged the gunners to fire on his own home. They did so, destroying it. He was never again a man of wealth. He died bankrupt and was buried in an unmarked grave.
John Hart of New Jersey was forced to flee in the winter of 1776, at the age of 65, from his dying wife’s bedside. While he hid in forests and caves, his home was demolished, his fields and mill laid waste, and his 13 children put to flight.
When it was finally safe for him to return, he found his wife dead, his children missing, and his property decimated. He never saw any of his family again and died, a shattered man, in 1779.
These men were all men of great wealth and influence in the Colonies, but they gave all they had to give their countrymen freedom. This July 4th, Americans are still fighting to keep that freedom.
I talk to Marines every day who have been to Iraq, and seen what they’ve accomplished. Not one of them doubts the justness of what they were doing. Most expect to be rotated back for a second tour. All say it is worth the sacrifice.
We owe them a debt we can never repay for a gift of incalulable value.
I woke up this morning in freedom. Our new home is furnished with two used couches and a used kitchen set. Yesterday, Gayle set up an empty box with a tablecloth over it as a coffee table. We slept last night on our surprisingly comfortable Aero-Bed-in-a-Minute.
I was surprised, somehow, to realize that we had just given up the accumulated possessions of a lifetime. Oddly enough, I hadn’t thought of it in those terms until I began working on this report.
We had never looked back at what we were leaving behind, because what was ahead was so precious. The freedom to live among the most generous and giving people the world has ever known.
As I was working on this report, I DID look back, for just a second, and asked myself; “Was it worth it? “
You bet. Happy 4th of July.
(Much of the information regarding the Founding Fathers came from an article by Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe.)
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