Mario A. Guerra
Happy birthday, America. Thank you to all who make us possible
Updated: Aug 5, 2021
June 29, 2021
As we celebrate the 245th anniversary of our nation’s independence, we can look back and ponder our history. Armed conflict between bands of American colonists and British soldiers first broke out in 1775, more than a year before we declared our independence.
So, interestingly enough, your Army is a year older than the nation it defends. That’s why it’s impossible not to think about our nation’s independence without also thinking about the United States Army which secured it.
And as we mark our country’s 245 birthday, let us reflect upon the strength of those early patriots. Their spirit that is carried on today in the hearts and minds of our Army Soldiers and Department of the Army Civilians. They have demonstrated that when it comes to our nation’s freedom and liberty, they embody the words of our Army motto, “This We’ll Defend.”
The Army has defended America in every conflict since the Revolutionary War, promoting freedom for all, a concept originally enshrined in the Declaration.
In early June of 1776, the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to discuss the prospect of formally separating from Great Britain. Even after years of heavy taxes and oppression, not everyone was in favor of independence. After about a month of debate, and after a committee drafted a statement justifying independence from Great Britain, on July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted to become independent of Great Britain.
On July 4, they adopted the Declaration of Independence. We have the blessing of hindsight and know the Revolution was a success, but at the time, members of the Continental Congress were not certain that the country – this new country, one they would have to fight for – would be successful. And, after all, they were committing treason in the eyes of Great Britain.
When Benjamin Franklin signed the Declaration, he spoke for many of those in the room when he said, “We must all hang together, or most assuredly, we will all hang separately.”
Our Founding Fathers did not take treason lightly, but they firmly believed in the arguments laid out in the Declaration and, 11 years later, the concepts in the Constitution: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility. To provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
And over the years, we have added a Bill of Rights and a total of 27 Amendments to the Constitution to further enshrine and expand what it means to be an American. The right of a free press, the right to vote, to peacefully assemble, the separation of church and state, the right to a speedy trial by a jury of one’s peers and protections for citizens are all things that new citizens to our country cite when asked why they wanted to become Americans. With the privileges accorded to us by the Constitution, we have both civic duties and civic responsibilities to ensure our freedom is protected.
As a citizen of this great country, we have the civic duty, for example, to participate in the democratic process by voting and serving on juries when we are called. Our civic responsibilities are a little different. As citizens, we have a responsibility to stay informed of current events and encourage social participation in our democracy. We have a responsibility to make our communities better places to live and work, and we have a responsibility to volunteer and give back to our communities.
This is part of what it means to be an American, and it’s why we celebrate Independence Day. The Fourth of July, our Independence Day, is about the freedom that we enjoy as Americans.
But that freedom did not come easy. This year, as we commemorate our independence, let’s remember how hard our ancestors fought so we could be free.
They fought in the Revolution to ensure we could be free from England. They fought in the War of 1812, and in both World Wars, and now, we fight on a modern battlefield that includes cyber and space. Freedom, as the saying goes, isn’t free. It’s very costly. It costs money, it costs time and it costs lives.
The United States – our great nation – did not become what we are in one day, one month or one year. It took two plus centuries of effort and hard work to get to where we are today. The dream of our Founding Fathers was to make America the prime example of real freedom in this world. The struggle to attain this goal, and to be worthy of their vision and sacrifice, has sometimes been difficult, but it’s a struggle worth fighting for.
We are a country constantly working to become a more perfect union, with our citizens embodying the light and the hope of our founding documents. If we continue to do better…and we must do better…then we truly do get closer to fulfilling our principles of liberty, equality and justice.
Our future is in our own hands. It is in the choices we make, each and every day. And it rests within each of us, trying to be better persons for ourselves and those around us…for our communities and society…for our nation and the world.
I’m reminded of the words of President Abraham Lincoln, who also lived in a turbulent time, and knew the value of his country: “I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.”
We are proud of our men and women who serve this nation, and we are proud to be part of a nation that prizes freedom above all else. Thank you, God bless you, and Happy Birthday, America.
Dn. Mario A. Guerra is the former two time Mayor of Downey and currently serves as Civilian Aide To The Secretary Of The Army. He can be reached at www.marioaguerra.com