STRAIGHT TALK: Remember sacrifices of others

Steve Stefanides

This coming weekend we will celebrate the 239th birthday of this great nation. A nation founded when 56 men essentially signed their death warrants by placing their names on what is known as our Declaration of Independence.

By signing that document, those men, those patriots put their dreams for a better life for their generation and for those yet to come. They put this dream ahead of the guarantee of their own liberty. They did so for a concept of governance that has lived on through almost two and a half centuries. It would take until 1791 before the Bill of Rights, which was written by James Madison was adopted by Congress.

Those first 10 amendments to our Constitution would go on to serve and protect our personal freedoms, limit the government's power in judicial and other proceedings and would reserve some powers to the states and the people.

Our nation has endured much during these past 239 years. The blood of some of our finest and brightest lies on both our shores and on the shores of other lands, as we have sought to defend those liberties for our own people and those far from our shores. Those same liberties that our forefathers risked their own lives for so many years ago, when they signed that piece of parchment in 1776.

Better life

Yes, its America's birthday, but one shared in the hearts and minds of so many around the world. It was that dream of a better life that brought my grandparents here in the early 1900s to make a life for themselves and their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

As a high school history teacher I found great joy in enlightening the minds of the students in my charge about the courage it took for those early settlers to take a stand. Then would come the challenges after that early fight for independence, and the resolve it would take to settle this great land of ours.

The immigration years are especially close to my heart, as is the journey of my grandparents and their struggles and their successes which would help ensure I would have the opportunities that have been granted to me and so many other Americans.

The sacrifices of two World Wars which have helped to assure that so many would bask in the warmth of freedom, both here and around the world, rather than the steely cold grasp of tyranny and oppression by those which would oppose democracy and the freedoms of men and women.

Not everything has been perfect over the history of this great nation. Throughout our past we have taken on the challenges of growing into a more mature society and nation. It would also be premature to say we have made it to the end of journey and the perfection of our society, but we've done pretty well, given the fact we are only human.

It is fair to say however, that we have the tools necessary and the desires of a strong willed people within our society to conquer the obstacles which interfere with us becoming "A More Perfect Union," each and every day we wake.

Don't underestimate

Those who doubt our ability to rise to those challenges, both domestically and internationally are betting on a losing hand, for if there is one thing you don't want to do is underestimate the American spirit. Our allies should never doubt our commitment to them; and our enemies, and the enemies of our friends should always know America is as committed to standing on the side of right no matter the cost or sacrifice required.

One may only have to gaze across the small white crosses which dot the landscapes of foreign lands across the seas.

The Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial is a 41 acre site in Belleau, France, which serves as the final resting place of 2,289 American soldiers who died in World War I.

The Cambridge American Cemetery in Cambridge, England, has about 3,812 graves of servicemen, including airmen who died over Europe and sailors from North Atlantic Convoys during World War II. Convoys my father sailed in during four years of World War II.

The cemetery at Normandy, France, where close to 10,000 American heroes lie in their final resting places overlooking Omaha Beach. This the site of one of the greatest displays of heroism shown in the fight for liberty and freedom in our battle against evil and tyranny.

Even today our young men and women are still giving the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the liberties our forefathers have passed on to us nearly a quarter of a century ago.

Yes, on July 4 we celebrate the birthday of the concept of freedom and liberty as transcribed on a piece of parchment that has been the foundation of this great nation we live in today. I do hope we all take a moment out of the celebrations of this weekend to just give a moment or two in reflection of this astonishing journey that the United States of America and its citizens have undertaken during these last 239 years.

Happy birthday, America.