Deployed service members share meaning of July Fourth

by Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton)
(U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Senior Airman Benjamin Stratton)

6/27/2013 – SOUTHWEST ASIA — When the initial battles in the Revolutionary War broke out in April 1775, few colonists sought total independence from Great Britain, and those who did were considered radicals.

On June 7, 1776, the Continental Congress appointed a five-man committee to draft a formal statement justifying the break from Great Britain including patriots: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin and Robert Livingston. Then on July 4, the Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence heralding the birth of American freedom.

Times have changed since America’s early days, but one fact remains the same, Americans are willing to fight for their freedom. This notion holds true to the lyrics of the national anthem, “O’er the land of the free and home of the brave,” as originally wrote by song writer, Francis Scott Key.

Whether at home with family and friends or deployed around the world, service members celebrate their freedom and reflect on what July Fourth has come to mean to them.

“Not only is it a time of celebration for our country’s independence — it’s the reason why we’re over here,” said Staff Sgt. Adrian Johnson, the 379th Expeditionary Comptroller Squadron finance customer service NCO in charge deployed from Joint Base Charleston, S.C. “I’m here fighting for not only our freedom, but for everyone else back home too so we all can have a choice.”

This sentiment resonates well with a state motto, “Live free or die.” Some service members joined because they would rather live in a free country, they would rather their family not have to worry or live under a tyrannous ruler.

“Independence Day makes me think of my niece and working hard to make a better world for her to grow up in,” said Staff Sgt. Nathan Walsh, a 340th Aircraft Maintenance Unit KC-135 Stratotanker crew chief deployed from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan.

Many service members joined for this very reason: protect their loved ones back home.

“For me, Fourth of July means spending time with family, barbeques and fireworks,” said Senior Airman Kelsey St. Clair, also a 340th Aircraft Maintenance Unit KC-135 Stratotanker crew chief deployed from McConnell AFB. “What we’re doing out here is preserving the American way of life for our families.”

Over the years the celebration has become more and more about the fireworks, the hotdogs, the parades, spending time with family and less about why the country waves their flags.

“It’s not just another day — not just another holiday,” said Staff Sgt. Ian Broz, a 379th Expeditionary Maintenance Group maintenance analyst deployed from Misawa Air Base, Japan. “It’s a day to be thankful for what we have, because not everyone has the same opportunities we do.”

There have been many war posters created throughout the nation’s history providing hope brandishing words saying things similar to one World War II poster, “We are of one mind–Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito shall never take from us the Freedom for which our forefathers sacrificed their lives and fortunes.”

Similarly, Broz added, “It’s very important for us to keep alive our forefather’s vision and not forget the sacrifices so many have made through the years to ensure we may continue to enjoy this, ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,’ dream.”

[Editor’s note: The television show, The History Channel, contributed to this article.]

Published by Benjamin W. Stratton

I'm a photojournalist traveling the world sharing what I experience along the way.

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