Reflections regarding Independence

  • Published
  • By Chaplain (Maj.) Patrick Genseal
  • 509th Bomb Wing chapel
On July 4th, 1776, 56 visionaries put pen to parchment and placed their names on a document that would secure them a place in American history. The Declaration of Independence is a document which holds a special place within the hearts of each American. With this document, the signers sent a message to the world that the residents of the 13 original colonies were willing to risk everything to be free. 

When these brave individuals stepped forward to sign the declaration, none of them knew just where this act of bravery, or treason depending on what side of "the pond" you were on, would lead. Would they be remembered as heroes or fade from memory carrying the label of a traitor? One can only imagine the thoughts going through their minds as they watched the ink dry into permanency, just like their place within the annals of history. 

I shall always remember the first time that I walked into the National Archives and fixed my eyes on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. While on the surface what I was looking at was merely words written on parchment, I couldn't help but think back to that day when I raised my hand and swore to defend those words; to protect the freedoms that those magnificent pen-strokes grant to each American. As I looked at those words: "We the people of the United States..." I couldn't help but feel a sense of pride that I have been granted the opportunity to be a part of a dedicated group of men and women who daily ensure that those words will never disappear. 

Saturday is the 4th of July, Independence Day! For some this day will be nothing more than a day away from the office, a day to light sparklers and other assorted fireworks, a day to watch a parade, or fire up the grill. For me, and I pray many others as well, it is a day to reflect on what men like John Hancock, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Button Gwinnett, Joseph Hewes and fifty others laid before us 233 years ago: Freedom. 

On the surface, this is such a simple word. However, beneath the surface is a churning caldron of definitions and ideas that are stirred each day by those who make up this great country. As I look at the word, I don't see the fact that I am free to travel from state to state without having to show "papers." I don't see the fact that I am free to enter any place of worship I want without fear of being arrested. I don't see the fact that I can express my opinion without censorship. What I do see is the long line of heroes, many whose names I will never know, who paid the ultimate price of their lives to ensure that you and I will always possess the freedoms we enjoy today. 

The Bible tells us that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friend. The signers of the Declaration of Independence loved this country so much that they were willing to put their lives on the line for the millions of Americans whom they would never know. Even today, the women and men who are part of America's armed forces, go into harm's way so that we will ever remain "the land of the free and the home of the brave."