I believe in the United States of America, as a government of the people, by the people, for the people whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed; a democracy in a republic; a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect union, one and inseparable; established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.
I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.
--William Tyler Page, The American's Creed
Today is a day that I hold in high esteem; not just for the finely brewed American Beer, Burgers, and Brats that I will be consuming nor the use of explosives to celebrate a holiday. I believe we should hold our Independence Day in high esteem because we know the price that America, and individual Americans in particular have paid to ensure that we are the greatest country on Earth.
The Founders, all of whom signed the biggest and most famous "Kiss Off" memo" to another country in the history of the universe all knew what it meant when they pledged their "Lives, Fortunes, and Sacred Honor" and signed off on our Declaration of Independence. They knew that attempting to separate themselves from the mightiest empire on earth would, in all likelihood, be fatal.
William Floyd of New York saw the British use his home as a barracks. His family fled to Connecticut, where they lived as refugees. After the war, Floyd found his fields stripped and house damaged.
Richard Stockton of New Jersey was dragged from his bed, thrown into prison. His home was looted and his fortune badly impaired. He was released in 1777, but his health was broken and he died a few years later.
At age 63, John Hart, another signer from New Jersey, hid in the woods during December 1776 while Hessian mercenaries hunted him across the countryside. He died before seeing the end of the war.
Thomas Nelson, a Virginian, commanded militia and served as governor during the Revolution. He is rumored to have called in artillery on his own home when he found it was being used by the British as a headquarters and used his personal credit to raise money for the Patriot cause and it so damaged his fortune as to leave him in debt to his death.
And that spirit has been alive throughout our history....
On September 23rd, 1779, Captain John Paul Jones of the Bonhomme Richard encountered the Serapis off of the English Coast and in the true spirit of America, took the fight the enemy. Attacking just as night fell, he got off an opening salvo and two of his cannons exploded, leaving his ship damaged. Realizing that his only chance was to close with his enemy, he rammed the Serapis and locked them together and boarded her. At one point during the fighting, the British asked for his surrender, to which he replied "I have not yet begun to fight!" and after three and a half hours of savage, hand to hand fighting, the British commander surrendered.
On August 24th, 1814, during the war of 1812, British troops marched on Washington DC and quickly overran American forces who had come to the capitals defense. Many public documents, including the Declaration of Independence, were packed in linen bags and moved to Virginia. First Lady Dolley Madison calmly directed last minute details at the White House while President Madison raced to the battlefield. A portrait of George Washington hung in the Dining Room and Dolley knew that is would be a national disgrace to allow the British to have it. Servants tugged at it, but is was screwed to the wall so tightly that it would not come free. The First Lady refused to leave without it. Finally, someone with a pen knife (most likely an Infantryman) carefully cut it from the frame. Later that night, the British razed the Capitol Building and the White House.
September 20th, 1863 found soldiers at the Battle of Chickamauga having their wounds tended to by a woman wearing gold-striped trousers, a green surgeons sash and a straw hat with an ostrich feather named Mary Edwards Walker. Dr. Walker had graduated from Syracuse Medical School eight years earlier and the US Army had no idea what to do with a woman doctor, especially one who wanted to be there. She worked as a volunteer surgeon and requested a commission, but was rejected because she was a woman. She kept on treating soldiers and civilians as a volunteer and in April of 1864 was captured and spent four months in a Richmond prison until exchanged for a Confederate Officer. After the war, she was awarded the Medal of Honor and remains to this day the sole female recipient of the award.
Jesse Owens was the son of a sharecropper and the grandson of a slave. Jesse was spotted as a great runner when he was a boy in Cleveland Ohio, but wasn't able to come to team practices because he had a job supporting his family after school, but by the time Jesse was in college, he was a star. At one meet, he broke three world records and tied a fourth in 45 minutes. When he went to the 1936 Olympics, he won 4 gold medals and succeeded in embarrassing Hitler to the point that he would shake no hands with the winners.
We are the country who strung telegraph wire from sea to shining sea, carved the Erie Canal and the Panama Canal, invented the assembly line, the telephone, the transcontinental railroad, the incandescent bulb, nylons (one of my favorites), air conditioning, television, and the internet. We don't know "QUIT"
We are not here as the greatest country because of the path that lies before us, we are here as the greatest country because of the path that lies behind us, laid out by those men and women who carved it out of the land and sacrificed to give us this great gift. Along the way, we have made some mistakes, but we are still the greatest country in the world, and I know that even though I will be home today, I thank God for the men who so long ago took a stand against tyranny, stood for their freedom and faced down the mightiest nation on earth to do it. God Bless my brothers and sisters overseas who are the descendants of that martial tradition and thank you for your service. All of us here know it ain't the easy road....
So drink to our success as a nation today and plan for more success tomorrow because even though the freedom train has a steam leak right now, we are gonna patch that up and get back on track here really soon.
God Bless America and you can light that M-80 and pass me another beer, because my burger is getting cold....