What does the 4th of July mean to you?

Dear Friends,

Over the time I have been aware of who we are as a nation I have been asked from time to time just what it means to celebrate the 4th of July. It’s not just the mantra of the birth of a new nation. It’s not the just another weekend to get drunk, party, BBQ, and take advantage of the time off. It has to have a deeper meaning, one that resonates from the past and looks to the future.

For me, there was an awareness at the age of 8 about what this great nation has gone through and will go through now and in the future. The rich military history of my family, from the time of the 1800’s to now in places like Basra, and Kabul, fill me with a pride that others know, and cannot explain. As I was growing, I began to read about how and why our existence as the United States of America came to be. It wasn’t just by accident that a number of disgruntled, angry men decided that enough of the outrageous behaviors of the British king had to come to an end. There were many who supported the view of coming to terms with the British crown and government, there only had to be an accommodation of representation, we might all still be British subjects, and this country would look very different from what it does today, geographically.

The men in that hot Philadelphia courthouse knew what they were starting. It was called rebellion, treason, a lack of respect, and more. If they failed, it would be the block or worse, but if they succeeded, a new nation would be born, one that would preserve liberties, and a form of government unheard of in history. There were those that opposed such a declaration, the reasoning was that a terrible price would have to be paid, and some did not want to see the suffering that went along that path. By vote, a practice that still is part of the grand culture we have as a citizen, it was decided to declare independence. Independence from foreign rule, independence from being forced to quarter soldiers, independence of taxation, without so much as a notice that they were being raised, an independence for self determination. It was a time of high minded ideals, and the anxiety of disaster if there was failure, and it would be a near run thing to a failure in the coming fight for that independence.

There have been many stories of the cold Valley Forge winter, of men shivering in the cold, without shoes, blankets, or warmth. Of frozen disheartened soldiers who did not re-enlist, the lack of food, powder, shot, and all the essentials to keep an army going, the failures of the Congress to provide the supplies, and the shame of some of these men to not be able to do more. But somehow, with the help of God, and there was help, the army that came out of Valley Forge that terrible winter was forged steel, an instrument worthy of the name Continental Army. The blood shed then, as now, was for a type of freedom that ALL men and women everywhere deserve, the freedom of the mind, the freedom of expression, the freedom of self-determination and the freedom to define, implement and live a life on purpose.

Our history as a nation is not one of conquest, or the taking of territory, even though that happened early in our history, it has not been the cause of our fights from the time of the War between the States until now. Our army, our forces, have fought to set other men free. Free from a tyranny that they themselves could not do alone. Cuba, Panama (twice), Nicaragua (twice), Western Europe (twice), Vietnam, my war, now in Iraq, Afghanistan, and a host of other places we are engaged in a desperate struggle, not just for the freedom of other people to self determination, but a fight to stop an archaic form of religious government that reverts mankind to the stone age.

So how does the 4th of July affect you and your outlook on this nation?

For me, it is represented by the flags, ribbons and photos I keep stowed away. The folds and creases have set in my fatigues over the years, there are some moth damage to them from improper storage, but the colors are as bright to me today as they were in 1968, the ribbons, campaign badges and photos of all the young boys tell the story alone of a man who gave his all for his country, and too soon was gone from his family. A brighter folded flag sits in a box, its stars are silk thread, from a time later that all men who served in the terrible fight’s for a small hill, a unknown village or for some line on a map. It is represented by the tragic burden that these men carried, my friends who’s faces I can not see any more and the distant strangers I put on point, who suffered the affects of war long after it was over and spoke little of the horrors, and drank themselves to sleep and to their deaths to relieve the nightmares of that time.

There is more to the 4th of July for me than barbeques, beer and fireworks. It is a time of remembrance of the men, and women who gave, and continue to give, their all in the cause of making all people free.

We should celebrate their lives every day. You should celebrate your life every day.

Happy 4th of July!

Jim White, PhD



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7 Responses to “What does the 4th of July mean to you?”

  1. Kim White Says:

    The 4th of July is the birthday of our Great Nation. And although we do party, BBQ and have fireworks,
    we also remember those veterans who put themselves on the line for us, we remember those who died
    for our freedom, and we remember other countries who are not living free. (who we also try to help.)
    233 years ago, brave men started the United States of America. We may not be United in all things, but
    we are united in the freedom to live how we like, to eat what we want (hamburger or veggie burger) and
    to FREELY congregate with friends and family on this holiday.
    GOD bless America!

  2. Terry Matthews Says:

    I believe that true freedom is a level of spiritual connection that few enjoy but many desire. My wish for America is the same that I would wish for any nation and that is that we live from the wisdom and compassion of our hearts and seek only to serve one another. In numerology the number 4 means the window that lets in more light. Let there be more light so that we begin to understand our purpose for being on every level.

  3. Tony Schuman Says:

    Dear Dr. Jim;
    What the 4th of July means to me is the presence of great people
    like my major professor from college Dr. Edward Rozek of the University
    of Colorado. Dr. Rozek fled his native Poland during the Nazi
    invasion, fought with the Free Polish forces, was captured twice and escaped
    twice. He fled to England and fought from Normandy to Germany.
    After the war, he came to the US where he worked his way through Harvard on a
    dairy farm. After earning his BA< MA AND PhD from Harvard he started teaching at
    the Univ. of Colo. for 43 years. He was a vocal anti-Communist and fought tyranny
    whever he saw it. His life’s purpose was to teach students to think critically.
    With the thousands he taught, he succeeded admirably. He would rarely talk
    about his war experiences, even though he was awarded the Cross of Valor
    3 times and 4 Purple Hearts. Being lucky enough to have learned from Dr. Rozek
    is what the 4th of July means to me, since Dr. Rozek passed away earlier this

  4. derekpm Says:

    Rather interesting. Has few times re-read for this purpose to remember. Thanks for interesting article. Waiting for trackback

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  6. Marcie Says:

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