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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

America's Birthday; Our Birthday*

*Somerset Daily American
July 3, 2010
as "It's the Birthday of Our Country"

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey
Today is the 234th birthday of the United States of America. On this day in 1776, a courageous group of patriots declared to the world that a new nation was born. They did this in the face of the most powerful nation on earth.

However, the process of forming a government and forging a nation united by one vision was a difficult journey. In the halls of congress, men debated whether we would be a nation of autonomous states, or with a strong central government leading states which would still have clearly defined rights, an argument that really wasn’t settled until the Civil War. On unforgiving fields of battle, blood was shed and men died. For a time, this nascent revolution tottered on the brink of disaster until pulled from that brink by the unbreakable will and inspirational leadership of a gentlemen planter from Virginia named George Washington.

The United States has risen to a globally dominant position. And yet, unlike empires and despots before, enemies who fought us and lost were astonished to discover that America was not only fierce and unbending in battle, but also generous and benevolent in peace.

America is also unusual in that it is the one country in the world that does not have a native ethnicity. Even those known as “Native Americans” were descendents of people who came from Asia across the Bering land bridge some 14,000 years ago. And yet, even in a land where everyone came from someplace else, our history has been largely peaceful. Our one Civil War began over issues of political sovereignty, the symbol of which was slavery. Yes, we have argued and sometimes fought with each other, but even in our most divisive moments, we never forgot that first and foremost, we were all Americans. One only has to look as far as Lebanon and Northern Ireland to see where we might have chosen to go.

We are an adventurous people. What others consider a barrier is simply something we haven’t tried yet. The world has benefited not just from our technology, but our willingness to undertake the seemingly impossible with that signature breezy confidence in the certainty of success.

I have realized that freedom and liberty will always be taken for granted by those who have never experienced anything less, nor have ever had to defend it. For veterans, July 4th will never be just a summer holiday, for we know personally the price that was paid; the cost that was exacted “…that this nation might live.”

There are 24 cemeteries in 10 different countries overseas, containing the graves of almost 125,000 American soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and guardsman. In addition, there are memorials for some 94,000 service members who are still listed as missing. And we must add to those totals at least 100,000 American sailors and Marines who found their final rest in the depths of the sea.

Yes, we’ve had to defend our own soil from time to time. But what is surprising is the number of times we have spent our blood defending, not our soil, but someone else’s; not our freedom, but the dream of liberty throughout the world.

In fact, no other nation in history has shed so much blood in defense of others; for the cause of freedom.

That ideal has defined the mission of America. It is an ideal, not ordered by the U.S. government, but one willed by the American people. We have, by choice, fulfilled our promise that America does not fight for riches, power or land; America fights for freedom.

Everyone’s freedom.

Take a moment today and look at the flag. Whisper a quiet thanks to those whose sacrifice has kept those colors flying, and speak a firm promise that their sacrifice was not in vain. The United States of America lives as the ideal of freedom, liberty, and justice because her people, you and me, won’t accept anything less.

Tonight, as we watch “…the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air...” know that the strength of this nation lies not in arms and ammunition, nor in walls or barriers. It lies, rather, in the hearts of Americans who love freedom, demand justice, and who will always choose to stand with those whose hearts yearn for what we have fought so hard to attain.

Today, we celebrate. It’s okay to be proud; it’s our birthday, after all. You are special; we are special.

Because we are all Americans.
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