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What The Fourth of July Means to Veterans

This holiday remembers the beginning of our nation.  It is celebrated in every city, town, and village across the nation with a federally mandated three day weekend, fireworks, family gatherings, picnics and parades.  The flag is everywhere, bunting hangs in shop windows, from street lights, giving a festive quality to everything.  

For most Americans it has been reduced simply to a long weekend good times had by all.  Veterans, though, always come to this celebration with a knowledge and experience that others do not have.  Veterans know the cost of what this holiday represents.  July 4, 1776 was the beginning of this new nation, this experiment in democracy the likes of which the world had never seen before.  But it also was the formal recognition of a war that had already had its skirmishes, had already had its wounded and killed in action statistics.  It had begun in 1775 at Lexington and Concord and would not be over until Yorktown in 1781.  At the war's end more than 25,000 American soldiers, sailors and Marines had died from the actual effects of battle, as a result of starvation in prisoner of war camps, and disease. Some 2,500 soldiers died in camp at Valley Forge alone.  Those seriously wounded, or disabled numbered up to another 25,000.

Men and women have answered the call to defend and protect the nation and its Constitution throughout the 237 years since July 4, 1776.  They have paid the costs of the freedom we celebrate each year at this time.  They have bled, suffered serious injury and died in the effort to preserve and protect and defend the inalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness for all Americans.  They have always been among the few.  They have always represented, for the most part, a cross-section of the American people.  The fact is that it has never been easy.  It has always had its costs, even in times of peace. To be soldier, sailor, airman, Coast Guardsman, or Marine, to accept the duties and sacrifices that potentially come to those who serve, takes a certain faith in the ideals of this country, an unshakeable commitment to family, and nation, and courage.  The nation owes its beginnings and its preservation to those who have been willing to give their all on behalf of others.  This is no simple task.  

There are others who give the nation its prowess and importance in economic, social, and political matters, but they all depend on those who are willing to suffer and to die to make it all possible.  We stand or fall together as a nation.  The burdens of citizenship are weighty and demand much of all of us.  But those who answer the call to risk their lives on behalf of us all deserve a special respect.  

Thanks to all who are presently serving, and all those veterans who have served and sacrificed in the past.  Enjoy your 4th of July.  You have earned it

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