A Veteran and First-Responder’s Perspective on Independence Day

By: Dr. Chris Reynolds, Dean, Academic Outreach and Program Development

We will soon celebrate our nation’s 241st birthday. On July 4, 1776, 13 former British colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia, signaling the birth of a new nation determined to be self-governing and free of influence from King George. Bear in mind, the colonies were in disarray— some wanted independence, while others were content to remain under British rule. Colonial representatives could rarely agree on anything except for the strong desire to be a free and independent nation.

Our nation was founded on freedom from tyranny and oppression and that same spirit exists to this very day with the ongoing fight against terrorism. This fight extends to the homeland, where our nation’s first-responders—our firefighters, law enforcement officers, and emergency medical services—provide each of us with the necessary protections for freedom.

For me, as a retired Air Force officer and emergency manager, the Fourth of July has additional meaning beyond the holiday itself. The freedoms espoused in the Declaration of Independence that we each enjoy — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — are largely due to the sacrifices our men and women in uniform make each and every day. Across America, families will be traveling to hundreds of locations to celebrate the holiday and enjoy fireworks. It is important that while we are with our families and friends, that we not forget the sacrifices of those who are serving our country, protecting it from tyranny and oppression. While most of us are enjoying a cold drink and hotdog, their reality is a lonely patrol outside of a forward operating base in Afghanistan, protecting an airfield in Kandahar, or on coastal watch duty somewhere in the Persian Gulf.

From the first shots fired at Lexington and Concord and flag-raising at Iwo Jima to the rescue of victims of the September 11th attacks and today’s deployments of our young servicemembers protecting our great nation, the Fourth of July has great meaning. Domestically, they will be patrolling our streets, responding to fires and emergencies, or rendering lifesaving care to a neighbor. These fine young men and women are protecting our right to celebrate the birth of the greatest nation on this earth. However you decide to celebrate this important day, be sure to stop and remember these individuals, whose service and sacrifice allows each American to celebrate our nation’s birthday, free of foreign and domestic threats.

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