By Jill Penley
We approach America’s 242nd Independence Day in a time when the United States does not appear “united” at all. Our country is blatantly fractured along political, cultural, spiritual and racial lines, but our differences should not be the focus this week. All Americans from “sea to shining sea” should be willing to unite in celebration of the nation’s independence by remembering those have died to provide it to us and to honor those currently defending it.
While we can never fully repay the debt owed to all of the service men and women throughout the history of the United States who gave their very lives defending our freedom, we can choose to remember their sacrifices. From the Revolutionary War (1775-1783), where over 4,000 men died in battle when Americans fought the British Empire for independence to our current global war on terrorism, blood continues to be the price for freedom. Perhaps Ronald Reagan, America’s 40th president, said it best: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”
America saw the end of the military draft in 1973 and forty-five years later the consequences are still unfolding. Today, the 1.5 million people on active duty in the United States Armed Forces are volunteers. These men and women believe in their nation enough to put their lives on the line to serve it. No matter one’s political lean or special ideology, this is a heroic act and should be recognized and respected. Many would even seek to honor the many servicemen and women. Do they want it? Most do not. Do they deserve it? Most certainly do.
As of late, society has become almost at odds with the classic military values of sacrifice, unity, self-discipline, and considering the interests of the group before those of the individual. Over the past few decades American society has certainly become more individualistic, and less disciplined, with institutions such as church, family, school and military wielding less influence. Patriotism has even taken a hit with NFL players kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem and politicians inciting riots via social media to further their own aspirations.
The definition of patriotism is to support one’s own country in whatever way possible. Patriotism should not be a dirty word, but a shared sentiment, one that bonds us even as we debate and disagree over the major issues of the day. Instead of bickering, fussing and defriending our fellow countrymen due to differing opinions, perhaps we should be willing to lay aside partisan politics and petty feuds, and come together as a nation to remember the price that was paid for our freedom. It makes us who we are as a nation. We should all remember, especially on the day our country was founded, that the love of our country and freedoms we enjoy unify all of us, regardless of our background or way of life.