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News > Commentary - Reflections on the Fourth of July
Lt. Col. David Stroud, 437th Airlift Wing Commander's Action Group director
Lt. Col. David Stroud, 437th Airlift Wing Commander's Action Group director
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Reflections on the Fourth of July

Posted 6/28/2010   Updated 6/28/2010 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Lt. Col. David Stroud
437th Airlift Wing Commander's Action Group director

6/28/2010 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- This great land of ours is fertilized by the blood of patriots. During the struggle for independence, nearly 9,000 of the colonist forces were killed. Among those 56 patriots who had pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor by signing the Declaration of Independence, at least nine paid that price with their life's blood.

There is a legend told by former President Ronald Reagan about the day of our nation's birth in that little hall in Philadelphia - a day on which debate had raged for hours. The men gathered there were honorable men, hard-pressed by a king who had flouted the very laws they were willing to obey. Even so, to sign the Declaration of Independence was such an irretrievable act that the walls resounded with the words "treason, the gallows, the headsman's axe." The issue of independence remained in doubt.

The legend says that at that point a man rose and spoke. He is described as not a young man, but one who had to summon all his energy for an impassioned plea. He cited the grievance that had brought them to this moment and finally, his voice falling, he said, "They may turn every tree into a gallows, every hole into a grave, and yet the words of that parchment can never die. To the mechanic in the workshop, they will speak hope; to the slave in the mines, freedom. Sign that parchment. Sign if the next moment the noose is around your neck, for that parchment will be the textbook of freedom, the Bible of the rights of man forever."

He fell back exhausted. The 56 delegates swept up by his eloquence, rushed forward and signed that document destined to be as immortal as a work of man can be. When they turned to thank him for his timely oratory, he was not to be found, nor could any be found who knew who he was or how he had come in or gone out through the locked and guarded doors. Well, that is the legend - but we do know for certain that those 56 men had pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor in signing that declaration. Nine of them gave their lives in the war that followed, most gave their fortunes, and all preserved their sacred honor.

What manner of men were they? Dedicated and freedom loving. No different than yourselves! Yes, I mean that. I am truly honored to serve next to you. I am one of a dozen plus officers here at Charleston AFB who voluntarily came back on active duty from retirement. Think I'm crazy? Well, let me tell you. For the many reasons why I came back on active duty, I can tell you this: I, for one, missed wearing the uniform, the camaraderie and the pride in serving my country again.

Sometimes a lump wells up in my throat when I am outside at 4 p.m. and hear the playing of the "Star Spangled Banner" at retreat. I am humbled that I still have an arm that I can smartly snap to attention. I am a proud American, but I have to tell you what hurts me. At retreat, it hurts me to see some who duck back under doors (as I have seen some do at the gym) or sneak back into their cars. We owe it to our forefathers - and all the veterans who gave their all for this land of liberty - to stand up, be counted and think how blessed we are.

Freedom isn't free; history attests to that. Nor will freedom ever be free. With freedom comes responsibility and reliance on God. "Our Constitution," John Adams declared, "was made only for a moral and religious people ... our constitutional government will survive only with a righteous people." To you my fellow Airmen, I say, don't lose sight of the truth that character - not charisma or charm - is an indispensable ingredient to liberty. National character is the core of national defense.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower eloquently proclaimed, "Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed - else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die." Patriotism is not a spectator sport. It's okay to get a little emotional when we salute the flag, sing the national anthem or recite the "Pledge of Allegiance." I call that passion ... and pride.

So this Fourth of July, while you're out burning your burgers - and your backs - basking in the southern sun .... pause for a moment ... and reflect on what the Fourth of July means to you.

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