Well here we are today, some of us enjoying an extended “holiday,” even though the news is full of reports of conflicts, wars, demonstrations, civil unrest, worldwide disagreements etc. And just how many of us, who have not had some member of our family and past generations involved with the military, have actually paused and given some thought as to just exactly what it is that we are “celebrating” and giving respect for on this holiday?
Well to be definitive, on July 4, 1776, the 13 colonies together said well, we’ve had enough of being told what we can and can’t do and what we have to do, so we are going to claim our own rights and tell Great Britain and the British Crown that henceforth we now claim our own Independence. There had been a lot of conflict between the Colonies and England for over a year now, and in June of 1776 the Colonies each sent a representative to Philadelphia to discuss this situation. That group became known as the Continental Congress and the gentleman from Virginia, Richard Henry Lee, presented a resolution proclaiming that the Colonies should now be ‘Independent’. Well they all liked that and after a little bit of revising the Declaration, on July 4, 1776 it was officially adopted by 9 of the colonies, the guys from Pennsylvania and South Carolina voted No, the guy from Delaware was totally undecided, and the guy from New York didn’t even vote!
As a result we celebrate our “Declaration of Independence” on July 4 of every year. So a hallmark in world history was initiated that day, when we as citizens, proclaimed us to be “free and independent” as a people and as a nation.
The cost of that has truly been extreme for the amount of lives lost fighting for this “independence” was enormous (as is any death and injury in battle). Figures estimate that 1 in 20 able-bodied males living in the Colonies died during the war. The youngest age known serving in the Continental Army was 10 years old and the oldest was 57 years old. The amount of United States Military casualties and thus families disrupted because of fighting and battling for these freedoms and independence are over 2,800,000.
Oregon was not even yet a territory at the time of the American Revolution, yet because of those forward thinking independent colonists, we have families here in our area that trace their family lineage to the original colonists. We have families here who have loved ones who have been involved in our nation’s military history since the Revolutionary War, and whose family members are still volunteering to take up arms to defend our rights to live in a free and independent nation. Just the other day I was talking with three generations of U.S. Army enlistees, and their family’s military history goes back to the Indian Wars. A few weeks ago, a family from Nyssa came by with some memorabilia from their parent’s service during World War II, and also some documentation of a relative who was commissioned as an Army Officer in 1860, and in that documentation he spoke about being saddened by having to retire from the Army and service to our Country.
I want to thank the anonymous donor, who left a folder of pictures of the 1941 July Fourth Celebration Parade in Vale, Oregon at the Sgt. Joshua Brennan Memorial Hall Library & Museum. I especially enjoyed the picture of the kids riding on the Uncle Sam float in the parade, and the picture of the family decorating their car with the “Buy U. S. Defense Bonds” banner. Too bad there were no names attributed in the pictures. Rest assured we will certainly display these pictures in the Museum. Thank You!
“Let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.” — Thomas Jefferson, 1743 to 1826, third U. S. President
Ronald Verini is a local veterans advocate who writes a weekly column for The Argus Observer. He can be contacted at (541) 889-1978, firstname.lastname@example.org or 180 W. Idaho Ave., Ontario, OR 97914. The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of The Argus Observer.