Dear American citizen:
As you go about your activities on the greatest secular holiday that America celebrates, it might be appropriate to ponder a few facts about this historic day, the Revolutionary War and those who brought it to fruition.
As most citizens know, before we became a nation, our forefathers rebelled against Britain's King George because of his excessive taxation, dictatorial nature and disregard for individual property rights. They were also tired of being ruled by a body of "representatives" in a parliament halfway around the world. Even hundreds of years later, Americans still want our government and its leaders to allow us to live our lives as we see fit. We want to conduct our religious beliefs, among other things, in our own way without political interference. We don't want a "king" to enact taxes, tariffs and regulations with little more than the stroke of a pen.
This early revolutionary spirit became a battle of wills between some of the greatest thinkers and writers the world has ever produced and King George III, whom they perceived to be ruling with little regard for the common man. Of course, when kings and leaders are challenged in such a manner, their first action is commonly attempting to overpower and destroy these rabble-rousers for their audacity to oppose them in this manner.
This resulting conflict ultimately gave birth to the final draft of the Declaration of Independence that was approved by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia. John Hancock, the president of the Congress, was the first to sign this magnificent document that changed the history of the world and untold millions of lives.
On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail. "It (the Declaration of Independence) ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty …."
What many modern-day Americans may not be aware of was that there were approximately 25,000 Americans killed during this war and thousands of others were wounded. It didn't turn out to be advantageous for these warriors because soldiers, in any war, become the ones who normally suffer the most. They all gave this new nation more than they ever dreamed of receiving from her. One would hope that in our modern age this would still be a reality in the civilian world but, sadly, in so many cases it isn't.
One unbelievable example of what patriots of that day endured for the freedoms and rights we currently enjoy — while we shoot our fireworks, have a paid holiday from work, enjoy picnics, parades and speeches — is highlighted here. The Jacob Brawler family from South Carolina contributed 23 members to the Revolutionary War. Brawler and 21 sons fought and were killed. The sole surviving son was wounded, crippled and died a few years later. They attempted to make a difference in their world, and they did, but at the greatest human cost possible.
John Adams also wrote his wife: "Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it."
Every day and night, Americans now work and sleep in peace because of men and women they've never met who weren't and aren't afraid to fight for what they believed or currently believe in. Is this something that even enters our minds when we're at the beach, mountains or barbecuing on the back deck on this unique holiday?
Thomas Jefferson gave his opinion on a country — which could also include those that we elect to lead us and the societal dilemmas that are currently tearing apart so much of what these patriots gifted to us — when he wrote, "If a nation expects to be both ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."
Something to think about in the middle of our Fourth of July festivities are the following questions. "Do Americans sincerely remember anymore the lives lost to secure our nation and maintain its freedoms?" "Do we cherish the rights our founding documents provided at such a severe price?" And lastly, "Is recalling these sacrifices in our behalf too much to ask during America's birthday celebration each year?"
Sacrifice is meaningless without remembrance. As a retired U.S. Army officer, I believe it's important to never forget what those patriots endured and fought for during the American Revolution, or the millions of soldiers who did the same in our other wars and what the Jacob Brawler family sacrificed so that we could enjoy ourselves in peace and prosperity on this day.
Robert B. Robeson retired from the U.S. Army as a lieutenant colonel after over 27 years of military service. He has since been a newspaper managing editor, columnist and freelance writer.