What does the 4th of July mean to me? It’s not just another weekend to have a party, barbecue, watch the fireworks, and take advantage of the time off although this is always a part of our celebration. It has a deeper meaning, one that resonates from the past. As a child , I was always fascinated when my father talked about the War Between the States and World War II. But my uncle George, a very old family member, had lived through world war I and II had lots more stories of what our nation has gone through. I was enthralled with his description of the Yorktown. It was only when I was an adult tourist, that I got to see it in Charleston, S.C. As a southerner, we tend to relive and remember the past. The military history of my family is rich with service, from the late 1700’s in wars such the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and World War II with service here and in the Phillipines, Guadal Canal, and France, and then the Korean War. It fills me with pride knowing that my family fought for this country’s independence and helped protect other countries from tyranny. My father made sure we kids knew our history and how we got to where we were. The movie, The Patriot, highlights the escapades one of my husband’s ancestors, the Swamp Fox, a very famous S.C. patriot during the Revolutionary War. Another ancestor was one of the sons of liberty who met under the famous liberty tree in Charleston, S.C . If a number of disgruntled, angry men hadn’t decided they’d had enough of the tyrannical behaviors of the British king our country might be very different from what it is today.Those men in that hot Philadelphia courthouse knew their rebellion must not fail for the stakes were too high. If they succeeded, a new nation would be born, one that would preserve liberties, and a new form of government unheard of in history. They voted (the practice citizens still have today) to declare independence from England, independence from being forced to quarter soldiers, independence from increasing taxation without notice, and independence for self determination. There have been many stories of the cold Valley Forge winter, of men shivering in the cold, without shoes, blankets, or warmth and of Washington crossing the Deleware. But somehow, the army that came out of Valley Forge that terrible winter was worthy of the name Continental Army. The blood shed then, led to the freedom of expression, the freedom of self-determination and the freedom to define, implement and live a life of purpose.
Our history as a nation is not one of conquest, or the taking of territory. It has not been the cause of our fights from the time of the War between the States until now although our military has fought in countries all over the world to preserve freedom. Many of these early soldiers’ platoons were made up of only family members. We have no idea the emotional impact of seeing their family destroyed in front of them . Soldiers during World War II suffered from “combat fatigue”. Many soldiers today return from battle with post traumatic stress disorder so severe, they can never work again. I have never served in a branch of the military. Most of my service was giving anesthesia for surgery on those returning from battle and those going back. I have a deep and abiding respect for those who through no fault of their own will never be the carefree persons they were before they put their lives on the line in service for this country.
In a recent blog post Kathy Bennett talks about Los Angeles-based filmmaker and philanthropist Charlie Annenberg Weingarten who founded DogBlessYou.org, an internet campaign aimed at helping veterans get service dogs. These dogs are trained to help soldiers deal with the anxiety experienced with this disorder. The specially-trained service dog listens and looks for any signs of distress and helps the soldier cope.
Mr. Weingarten has created a Facebook page called Dog Bless You. For every 5000 "likes" on the page a veteran will receive one of these special dogs. Kathy has issued a call to action.
Weingarten says he believes the campaign will help spread patriotism and give injured veterans a much-needed companion who will provide love and affection, something that is missing from the medical treatment of PTSD.
So for me, there is more to the 4th of July than barbecues, beer and fireworks. It is a time of remembrance of the men, and women who gave, and continue to give, to the cause of keeping this country free.