The 4th of July is American Independence Day — a national holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It’s a day commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, concerts, baseball games, political speeches, and all sorts of celebrations.
As we do every year, my family will be celebrating with our traditional, always stupendous cookout and fireworks display in Summit, New Jersey.
But this year, our celebration will be taking on a different focus. You see, over the past several months I’ve been consulting with the U.S. Department of the Army. While most of my work has been with civilians, participants often include retired soldiers or those currently on active duty.
Simply stated, the experience has been a humbling one.
In mid-June, I was working at the “Home of the Big Red One,” also known as the 1st Infantry Division in Fort Riley, KS. One of the participants, a mother of two and wife to a solider currently serving his fourth tour in Iraq as a nurse, came to class looking like a deer in the headlights but determined to finish her work with great conviction.
When I approached her to express concern, she simply said, “I was notified this morning that my husband is either sick or wounded. I don’t know which one, but I do know that he’s alive.” Because phone lines in Iraq were down, she was unable to learn more. The next day, we learned that her brother-in-law, who is serving his seventh tour of duty, was wounded. Her husband would be accompanying his injured brother back to the states.
This woman’s courage, stamina and commitment to her family and her country astounded me. It also reminded me that soldiers around the world are displaying their bravery and patriotism each and every day so we can enjoy our BBQs and fireworks. Regardless of your political beliefs or personal feelings about the war, this is a lesson about the true cost of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that none of us can afford to forget.
This Saturday, when they play our national anthem prior to the fireworks display in Summit, my mind and heart will be with our soldiers around the world. I hope that yours will, too.