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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fourth of July -- a time to reflect on freedom past, present and future

   (I wrote this column several years ago, but thought it was worth dusting off and passing along again...phil)

        We are truly blessed in the country in which we live. And, our Fourth of July holiday is a time for reflection and appreciation for what we have.
Most of us we head out for some sort of celebration this weekend, whether a simple gathering with family and friends or a big fireworks extravaganza. We’ll do that without the worry of being attacked somewhere along the road or caught in the midst of a rebel ambush.
Yes, we still have and may always have in the future threats of terrorist attacks and other unlawfulness, but compared to most of the rest of the world, we are truly blessed and free to enjoy our lives with little or no fear. This is especially true in the part of the country where we live.
From my days as a youngster, I have always looked forward to the Fourth of July. It meant summer had really arrived. It was a time for celebration -- fireworks and good food. Whatever we did earlier in the day, at night we headed to the fairgrounds where I grew up in eastern Illinois. There the American Legion would set off a wonderful evening display of fireworks, ending with an American flag and beautiful aerial finale.
Private fireworks were illegal in Illinois, but most everyone had a few. Sometimes folks would stop and buy them in Tennessee when coming back from the south. Most kids purchased them bootleg from an older boy in the south of the town. We’d ride our bikes to his house, and he would take us inside and show us the inventory, which he kept in the inside (underneath) of a hide-a-bed. His stash was mostly firecrackers.
Money was something usually in short supply, but I saved a few bucks from my chores for my purchases. In my early fireworks years, I concentrated on purchasing Lady Fingers. They were tiny little firecrackers. Think I paid a dime for a package of about 100. The only problem with the Lady Fingers was the little crackers were packed so tightly in the packages, I pulled out about a third of the fuses from the crackers when trying to get them out of the packages.
Today, with the world situation as it is, and many of our young men and women abroad protecting our freedom, is a time to reflect on that first Fourth of July or Independence Day.
I found text from a famous letter written by John Adams on July 3, 1776, to his wife Abigail about his thoughts on celebrating the Fourth. James Heintze, librarian and faculty member at American University, says the letter often is misquoted, but claims the following paragraphs are accurate.
“The Second Day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and illuminations from one End of the Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
“You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light of Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall night.”
Adams was truly a man of vision as were our other founding fathers. He could foresee that more than 200 years later vigilance still is need to protect our freedom, our independence.
Take time to remember those who have gone on before; those who protected us in the past, and are no longer with us. We also need to remember those who are protecting our freedom today, including those area active and Guard personnel serving in this country and abroad. 
We owe our forefathers, and our protectors today, a great debt of gratitude. Remember, give thanks, enjoy the celebration, and have a great Fourth of July.

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