By Mike Gold, A retired entrepreneur living the dream in the Pacific Northwest.
We just celebrated our Day of Independence. July 4, 1776, was when our ancestors declared independence from Great Britain.
I got to thinking about how little our younger generation really knows about the significance of these holidays. Let’s take a look at a few.
In fact the Second Continental Congress actually voted to sever from its then parent, Great Britain on July 2, 1776. July 4th was the date they agreed to the official statement that became the Declaration of Independence. The document wasn't actually signed by most of the congressional delegates until August 2nd. A few delegates didn't ever sign it!
One has to really think about this holiday, let it wash over you. The 13 colonies had had enough of the regressive taxation imposed by Britain on goods purchased here, made here or exported from here. Our founders had to know that Britain would not simply accept our detachment from them. Sure enough, the War For Independence also known as American Revolutionary War shortly followed this declaration.
It was a long bloody war, lasting until 1783 when the Treaty of Paris was signed in which Britain recognized the United States as an independent county. (The French joined the Americans and fought with them, as did Spain. However, Spain was simply helping France and was not specifically helping America.)
What one has to really think about is these colonies were not especially well armed against the British (known as the Red Coats – as that was their uniform). In fact, many of our revolutionaries would spend pre-battle time in the local pub – getting all liquored up to then go out and fight. Really the first international war fought using Guerilla tactics. The Americans had no guarantees that they would or could win. The motivation was fierce. Wanting to be independent (really free of any entanglements from Britain).
Just imagine how the war was fought. First of all, no excellent medical care – especially for the colonialists. If they were stabbed with a bayonet or shot, often they would simply lie on the ground until they died. And remember, most of these battlers had families to take care of. Not a “professional army” as we have today.
I’ll bet well over 80% of our younger population has no idea what Armistice Day is really about. In fact, it signified the truce at the end of World War I. Signed on and which took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning—the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918. Today, it is simply known as Veterans Day.
Again, we’ve forgotten the history of World War I. Germany with Austria/Hungary was in the middle of the opposition, against Great Britain, France and Russia. This was supposed to be the “war to end all wars.” In fact, the absolutely horrible shape Germany was left in after the war’s end, inevitably led to the rise of Hitler and World War II (so much for the war to end all wars).
As was the case in our Revolutionary War, on-the-field battle conditions during World War I were simply horrible. However, this time, weapons such as machine guns, mortars and artillery created much more massive injuries. Again, many were unable to receive medical help and died.
Perhaps my favorite national holiday. It commemorates the remembrance of the people who died while serving our country. I had the opportunity to visit the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer very near where Allied Soldiers came ashore in World War II to start the invasion of Europe to drive the Germans back to Germany.
I found this visit to be a near religious experience. There is a beautiful scene at the end of the movie, "Saving Private Ryan." The character played by Matt Damon, a private, is nearly the only survivor of the battle for a bridge. He visits the cemetery as an old man with his family. He kneels down near the grave of his lieutenant who died protecting him on that day. With tears in his eyes, he asks his wife if he was a good man. What he was doing was honoring the dead by hoping that he led a worthwhile life after the war when so many of the soldiers protecting him did not make it back.
Every time we get near Memorial Day, I give silent thanks to those who made this ultimate sacrifice.