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  • Robert M. Edsel

Who Paid for July 4th?

Tomorrow, across this great land, people will be enjoying the July 4th holiday. On the eve of those celebrations we would be well served to remember the lives of more than one million military service men and women that were sacrificed to gain independence for our nation — and preserve it — these past 230 years.

During the American Revolution (1775-1783) more than 4,435 Americans gave their lives to enable the 13 colonies to unite as one nation in the war for independence from England.

During the Civil War (1861-1865) 498,322 Confederate and Union soldiers — ALL AMERICANS — sacrificed their lives in a bitter struggle to further build the nation they each envisioned. Although the war threatened to destroy that which it strived to preserve, it proved to be the defining event in the building of a nation by bonding a divided peoples.

In the war to end all wars, “The Great War”, which the passage of time later proved to be World War I, 116,516 Americans gave their lives to fight a war on foreign shores in defense of the very principles of freedom we as a nation fought so hard to earn.

Just twenty-three years later our nation was the victim of a surprise attack: 2,400 Americans were killed at Pearl Harbor. Thus commenced America’s formal involvement in World War II (1941-1945), the greatest most destructive conflict the world has ever known. Over the next four years 405,399 more Americans would die fighting on battlefronts throughout Europe, North Africa, the Pacific, and of course Japan.

Only five years passed before the outbreak of war in Korea (1950-1953). 54,246 Americans died fighting to preserve the hard-fought victory of World War II and to return peace to the world.

During the war in Vietnam (1964-1975) 90,209 Americans gave their lives fighting battles on foreign soil to defend the principles in which we believed. The lengthy period of the war — more than 11 years — resulted in controversies that unfairly engulfed our service men and women making their battle one that, for some, continued years after their return home. Many did not receive the recognition they deserved in a timely manner.

In Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990-1991) 1,972 Americans died fighting to regain the freedom for a strategic ally who had been invaded.

And now, once again, we are fighting an enemy, more devious and unpredictable than others before, who has brought the fight to our land through calculated acts of terror against innocent people. Even today our nation has troops under fire on the field of battle in Iraq and Afghanistan (2001-???). To date, more than 2,816 have given their lives on foreign soil to protect and make safer our homeland. Hundreds of thousands of other service men and women are stationed around the world, unable to be with their families on July 4th because they are safeguarding the very freedom we enjoy and too often take for granted.

These 1,192,924 Americans gave their lives in service to our country and the ideals we hold so dear. Their sacrifice, and that of the more than 18 million living war veterans in this country, enables us each 4th of July to celebrate our freedom, to enjoy a day off from work, to spend time with our families. THE “INDEPENDENCE” WE WILL ENJOY TOMORROW HAS COME AT A CONSIDERABLE PRICE. Those in uniform are still “paying” for it. We honor them all by remembering.

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