This is the week in which we celebrate the 4th of July, the day designated as Independence Day in America. When we celebrate our independence as a nation, we also celebrate what that independence meant to those who fought, bled, and died to achieve it: personal freedom, economic freedom, individual liberty, and the various rights later encapsulated in the first 10 amendments to the Constitution—the Bill of Rights. Perhaps the meaning of July 4th was best summarized by John Adams who wrote:
“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this continent to the other from this Time forward forevermore. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet through all the Gloom, I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will triumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”
Adams’ eccentricities in capitalization, spelling, and punctuation aside, this is a powerful statement. By the way, for readers who are wondering about Adams’ referral to July 2nd, he did not get the date wrong. Most but not all of the signers of the Declaration of Independence affixed their signatures to the historic document on July 2nd. It was then sent to a printer for reproduction, a task accomplished on July 4th. Hence, the date put on the Declaration by the printer was July 4th which, of course, became the official date on which Independence Day is celebrated.
John Adams wrote that he was “well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain the Declaration, and support and defend these States.” Not only was Adams aware of the cost, he was prescient in his prediction. Since Adams’ time, the sons and daughters of America have indeed paid a high price to maintain the Declaration and defend “these states” that became the United States. As we celebrate another Independence Day, it might be well to acknowledge who it is that does the bleeding and dying to keep America free.
The Heritage Foundation recently released statistics on which regions of the country provide the most recruits for the various branches of the military. I was not surprised to learn that Texas, Oklahoma, and the Southeastern states provide by far the most sons and daughters for military service. When I served in the Marine Corps, it seemed like most of my fellow Jarheads were from the South or from Texas or Oklahoma. On the other hand, I met very few from the Northeastern states, California, Oregon, or Washington. In fact, the only Marines I can remember from the Northeast were two from South Philadelphia who had gotten into trouble with the law and were given the option by the trial judge of joining the Marine Corps or going to jail. The Marine Corps no longer accepts recruits in this fashion, but it was quite the thing during the height of the Viet Nam War. The only Californians I remember serving with were several Latinos who joined the Marines to speed up the naturalization process for citizenship.
Since all Americans from all states stand to benefit from the freedoms our military personnel fight and die to preserve, it stands to reason that there would be some geographical equity in where our military recruits come from. But there is no equity. The sad truth is that the more liberal the state, the less likely its sons and daughters are to volunteer for military service. Said another way, the sons and daughters of conservative states such as Texas, Oklahoma, and the Southeast do most of the fighting and dying for America’s freedom while the sons and daughters of the liberal Northeast and Pacific West enjoy those freedoms, but do much less fighting and dying for them. Happy Independence Day.