Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day 2013

Waking up today sans alarm, I first appreciated the fact that back in 1941, Congress made this an official federal holiday. Prior to that, federal workers had to take a day off without pay to celebrate America's independence. So where does this day come from and what does it mean to me? Not being a history buff but being someone who loves his country and has sworn to die for it, I thought I'd educate myself a bit.

It all goes back to the Revolutionary War with Great Britain in 1775. Not many of our colonists desired independence at the time from Great Britain but by June the next year, the Continental Congress met and appointed a 5-man committee to draft what would become our Declaration of Independence. Those men were Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, and Robert Livingston of New York. In early July 1776, it was voted on and on July 4th, Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence. It was read aloud in Philadelphia for the first time four days later on July 8th. John Adams wrote the following to his wife, Abigail, just after Congress voted regarding the declaration:

"...will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival" and that the celebration should include "Pomp and Parade...Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other."

It wasn't until 1870 that the U.S. Congress made today an official holiday, even though states were starting back in 1778 with Massachusetts. Eventually in 1941, it became a federal holiday like I mentioned earlier. Ironically, two authors of the Declaration both died on its 50th anniversary, on July 4, 1826. They were John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Here is a video (less than 3min in length) from the History Channel about today's history.

Today, flags fly. Concerts are held. Fireworks and mischief across our land prevail in several evenings surrounding our holiday. Many less fireworks than normal this year, though, due to the epic failure of the current Congress to have an approved budget and have therefore enacted the "furlough." Many, many of our military bases this year have scrapped fireworks due to no funding. It's ironic, isn't it? The same military that sustains our independence is celebrating less than ever this year because of the failure of the Congress...a congress that once approved the Declaration itself. In other areas (like in communities near Cleveland, OH), the fireworks are scrapped due to funding or more so because of unruly youth thereby presenting a real security and safety concern.

For me...for my family, our flag flies. It flies every day of the year. I don't need a holiday to remind me of my independence and my oath. Every day I leave my home I pause and look at that flag and remember what it stands for. I also immediately think of the places it is currently flying. Places like remote FOBs (Forward Operating Bases) in Afghanistan, midship on U.S. Navy ships out to sea, on the arms of U.S. Marines at Camp Leatherneck in southern Afghanistan, and along the fuselage of U.S. Coast Guard choppers that protect our coastline and rescue those in need. We will spend today as a family together, watching the same parade we watch each year and later enjoy a relaxing afternoon with friends who have "adopted" us as family which include a few brothers (and a sister) who also serve as I do. Fireworks tonight? Perhaps...but I do enjoy my couch on July 4th evening. I surely love to crank the sound system to the Boston Pops' annual July 4th celebration. The powerful orchestra sends chills down my spine every year. Besides, there will be plenty of revelers outside I'll be able to hear (and see) for sure. Here are two photos from 2 years ago today. I was at Bagram Air Field in northern Afghanistan and they ran a "deployed version" of the infamous Peachtree Road Race that's held in Atlanta every July 4th...a MONSTROUS race with thousands and thousands of runners.
They had a huge banner for us all to sign. 
Ready to run 10 kilometers in the hot Afghan sun
Yesterday, the USS Dwight Eisenhower (CVN-69) Battle Group returned home to Norfolk, VA. In years past, deployments were a standard six months. Not so for the "Ike" who ended up being deployed for 10 out of the past 12 months. Births missed, holidays and countless other sacrifices. I loved scrolling through the homecoming photos from the pier and thought I'd share a few below. I've been on that pier, I've been on that ship, and I know what it's like to get that first kiss...again. Welcome home, Sailors...welcome home. And to you all, have a Happy 4th of July and remember where our independence comes from and who sustains it today as we enjoy it.
The crew "Manning the Rails" as they approach the pier where their families wait.

The crew "Manning the Rails" as they approach the pier where their families wait.

The "First Kiss" ... a Naval tradition

"Hello Son...great to meet you for the first time!"


Manning the Rails

My biggest heart tug...Daddy's first chance to hold his baby girl.  "Welcome home, Shipmate. Welcome home."

1 comment:

Jerod Husvar said...

The heart of a nation rides on that ship! Welcome home, Ike and crew!