Did you know that it was in the city of brotherly love that the church bells rang and sounded the alarm for freedom?  Yes, in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776 the bells rang signifying that the Declaration of Independence was approved and officially adopted by the Continental Congress, thus America was born.  Today, the bells are symbolically ringing again, once again reminding us of our freedom.

I am sure we are all looking forward to this Independence Day holiday throughout America and in some foreign lands for those who are not serving in the mainland.  This is a time for parades, carnivals, family, picnics, concerts, friends, and of course, fireworks.  They are all representative of the American Dream and the freedom so many have paid the ultimate price for.  We deserve to celebrate our freedom, but make sure we do it responsibly and honor those who have given us this right.  Be alert and know that there are those terrorists who would seek to do harm to America on this Independence Day.

A celebration of freedom on the Fourth of July in America means we are standing on the “shoulders of giants” who have paved the way for us. We cannot forget why we celebrate.  America is the land of opportunity, where patriotism, justice, dignity, and honor rise to the forefront.  It is indeed the “land of the free and home of the brave” where those who have gone before us fought for freedom and gave their lives to defend this great nation.  President John F. Kennedy said it best, “We dare not forget that we are the heirs of that first revolution.”  Who can forget the infamous lyrics from “Proud to be an American” by Lee Greenwood and when he sings, “And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men (women) who died, who gave that right to me,” I still swell with pride when I hear that song.  It is amazing!  I even get emotional at times during the National Anthem because I think about the almost 100 Repatriation Services I attended while deployed, a half of dozen of which I led.  Those services in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan, which paid tribute to those who died in combat, remind us of why we do what we do around the world in defense of our nation and its allies.  I shall never forget those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for all of our freedom and liberty.  Yes, I shall always stand at the position of attention during the playing of the National Anthem and place my hand over my heart when in civilian attire. I am proud to be an American.

America is still strong and the leader of the free world. We still have the world’s greatest military and largest economy.  Further, the American Dream does not stop at our borders and extends to millions around the world who look to us for hope and freedom.  We are bringing liberty to lands where tyranny once ruled. We also recognize we cannot do it along and we are grateful for our allies who have stood and fought by our side. The wars continue and the battles go on for democracy, justice, and human rights around the world. Yes, I am proud to be an American and not just because of Independence Day.

I also want to encourage us to live out what it means to be an American. I know that will vary to some, but some things are core.  If we are proud to be Americans, let’s start treating each other with dignity, love, and respect.  Stop committing heinous crimes against each other, sometimes based on our ethnicity, gender, and cultural differences.  America is stronger because of our diversity and yes you have heard me say it hundreds of times, no more division along the “races” based on color labels of black and white.  Now is the time to change America, eliminating the terms “black and white” for people identification and come together as Americans.  Stop calling each other colors—that we really are not!  We are Americans!

I know some Americans won’t celebrate Independence Day because of the past injustices!  I do not declare America perfect today, but we have certainly come a very long way.  We cannot dwell in our past and we did not always do the right thing, but we must move forward.  For example, imagine if all women in America decided they would boycott America because there was a time when all women could not vote!   Yes, there are still some disparities in America with regard to women such as pay and sexism, but we must keep growing and improving.  Today, almost 90 years later removed from antiquated practices and policies, we now realize that women are critical to our political system and vital to keeping America strong across the entire spectrum of the Department of Defense.  My point is that we cannot keep improving if we keep dividing over the things of the past and using antiquated terminology, views, practices, and divisive language.  Now is the time to have the “Courage to Stand” and continue to create change for better America.

Therefore, as you celebrate with your family, friends, and associates this Fourth of July, I want to encourage you to take a moment to remember the hundreds of thousands who died to give us that right.  Let’s salute them and honor their sacrifices by doing our best to make America proud and serving with excellence, loving each other, as we continue to fight for freedom. Together, we can change and improve America as we continue to lead the free world.  President Abraham Lincoln said, “I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives.  I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.”  May God bless you and may God bless America!

 

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