EDITOR'S NOTE: The following was first published on July 4, 2008, to commemorate Independence Day.
The time draws near to celebrate another birthday and I have been blessed by Divine Providence to celebrate quite a number of them. I think back to some of the earliest of them and I remember many friends that I have had the good fortune to be with. Even before my first birthday, I was with them celebrating a tea party in Boston Harbor.
I was there with them at Concord and Lexington. I remember the cold and hunger and uncertainty at Valley Forge. It seemed like the end might be near before we really had a chance, but common sense prevailed and we rallied from our malaise. I was with them in defeat and also in victory at Yorktown.
I was with them when they struggled with a document that set down the rule of law to govern all who lived under it. I was there to listen to the debate and, yes, even some pretty harsh arguments as they hammered out the restraint of government and the protection of God-given rights. It was a tumultuous time, but there were great statesmen at work and they would not give up until their job was accomplished.
I've had so many birthdays it's difficult to remember each and every one, but there were times that I just can't forget. Some are very good memories and some memories bring a tear to my eye and a sorrow to my heart. I remember the exploration of a continent; the changing of commerce from wagons to riverboats, railroads and eventually to trucks and airplanes. I was there for the industrial beginnings that turned raw materials into finished products.
I was there at Bull Run and Vicksburg and listened to a man of strength and compassion at Gettysburg. I was there as a nation stretched from sea to shining sea. I was there as the first huge waves of humanity crossed the ocean to find opportunity and promise in the new world. It was not always easy; in fact, sometimes it was just downright difficult. But that's when I had my chance to encourage and inspire. I watched as the great towering cities came into being and marveled at their vistas.
I remember two brothers who had a new fangled contraption that could leave the ground, defying Newton's theory.
I was there to see the era of the great and majestic ocean liners as they plied their way from continent to continent.
So much time has passed, yet it is only one grain of sand in the hourglass of time that I am forced to remember selectively. I was with my friends in the Arden in a conflict to end all conflicts.
Twenty years later, I was with them at Pearl Harbor, Iwo Jima, Midway, North Africa and Normandy. Then came Khe Sanh, Chosan and Baghdad. They were difficult times and I thought of Valley Forge and how I was able to move beyond the suffering, the cold and the hunger . and I found strength.
I was there when a giant step for mankind was taken and it seemed the very heavens were within our grasp. I was there to see the manifestation of industrial might, the likes of which were never before seen by an entire world.
I was there on 9/11 and my emotions were tested to their limits. But I looked around at my friends and I saw the determination in their eyes and the resolve in their hearts, and once again I was able to move on because of the fire in their souls.
I wept as the Stars and Stripes were raised at the World Trade Center just as our flag was raised on Mt. Suribachi 68 years ago. Yes, I wept but it was tears of pride that only strengthened my resolve.
I will be a young 237 years old when I celebrate my birthday July 4.
Freedom has nourished my flame of desire and my persistence to carry on against all adversity. I will never surrender to tyranny nor will I bend to the blackmail of terror. I will fight the battle of good vs. evil and I will ultimately win that contest because I am the Spirit of America and I reside in the hearts and minds of each and every American dedicated to the principles of our great democracy.