According to www.USA.gov website, “Independence Day honors the birthday of the United States of America and the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. It’s a day of picnics and patriotic parades, a night of concerts and fireworks, and a reason to fly the American flag” (USA.gov. 2008). Over the years growing up in Michigan, Independence Day meant going out to a picnic all day at Kensington Park and enjoying friends, neighbors, and family. Then the best part would be going to downtown Detroit and watching the fireworks. Even though I knew what I was celebrating, I never really took in the full meaning of what it symbolized. To me, just a fun celebration of freedom is what it used to be, but its meaning has deepened over the years.
I first think of a 31-year old Army soldier from Naples who died in a helicopter crash in southern Afghanistan. SSG Marc Scialdo was a Black Hawk crew-chief with the 603rd Aviation Support Battalion serving his second tour of duty. Here was a young man who chose to fight for the independence of others. His ultimate sacrifice has changed my mind about what Independence Day means.
Another Naples resident who has changed my mind about fun-in-the-sun Independence Day is my friend Harold Leavitt. Harold entered into the Army Air Corps at age 21 and served our country from 1941-1946. He served with the 20th Air Force, 313th Bomb Wing, 505th Bomb Group in the Pacific Theater and was captured in Tokyo and ended his war service as a POW in Japanese custody. Harold shared with me how his faith in God and in his country saved him at the lowest point of his life.
These two men have changed my opinion on how I will celebrate IndependenceDay. Marc who was so young gave his life to help another country’s independence and Harold, who had fought a war many years ago to help a country keep their independence symbolizes exactly what it means to appreciate the freedom our country has had since 1776.
As John Hancock (1st Signer of the Declaration of Independence) reminds us: “Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian and social duty of each individual…Continue steadfast and, with a proper sense of your dependence on God, nobly defend those rights which heaven gave, and no man ought to take from us.”
This is what the Fourth of July means to me today!
Pastor Don Treglown