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SAF/PA 2004 Air Force Public Affairs
Independence Day, 2004
Today marks the 228th anniversary of our nation's birth. On a hot summer's day those many years ago, a group of courageous individuals, men from many different walks of life and from each of the 13 original colonies gathered together in Philadelphia to declare America's independence.
In praising that bold pronouncement, John Adams wrote the following words to his wife Abigail: "Yesterday the greatest question was decided which ever was debated in America; and a greater perhaps never was, nor will be, decided among men. A resolution was passed without one dissenting colony, that those United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States."
Adams and his compatriots dreamed of a new nation founded in freedom and dedicated to great ideals: the rule of law, the inalienable rights of individuals, and limited government that serves those whom it governs. To these goals they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor, and this was not done lightly.
The victory of their cause was not assured, nor was the realization of their great vision guaranteed. Our founders knew the enormous risks they were taking. In challenging one of the greatest powers then in existence, they understood that a long and terrible struggle lay before them, whose cost would be dear and whose outcome was uncertain.
Yet they and the many thousands who rallied with them to the stars and stripes of our new country did not shrink from the task that was given to them. With a stark determination they grappled with such a difficult challenge because they believed that life without freedom would be unendurable and because they knew that the liberty and happiness of countless future American lives depended upon their actions.
Today, 228 years later, we celebrate our forbearers' success with fireworks, feasting, and for many, joyful spirits. But in doing so we must also pay tribute to the faith that carried them steadily forward to victory through many battles, setbacks, tests, and sorrows. They had faith in themselves and in each other. And, they possessed an enduring belief in the power of American character and American will to achieve noble ends with hard work. But perhaps most tenaciously of all, they believed that a free people, fighting in defense of their freedom, could prevail against oppression and tyranny.
In remembering the founders on this national day of celebration we also recognize that their high principles, heroic qualities, and steadfast faith are not just part of America's past; they are very much alive in the hearts of freedom's champions today.
Like the patriots of 1776, the present generation of men and women in our armed forces are among the most courageous of Americans. A broad community encompassing many different backgrounds, they rise boldly to the defense of our country from every state in the union.
In the Air Force today alone we have a diverse force of 700,000 active, guard, reserve and civilian men and women. They are all "Airmen." We are one Air Force. And our nation remains free today as a result of their bravery, excellence, and selfless service.
The great Americans who wear the uniform of our country also share with the founders a steadfast commitment to promoting freedom and defending the ideals enshrined in our Constitution. As they take forward the fight against tyranny and terror, they carry freedom and democracy with them, demonstrating those values to many whose lives have only known brutal oppression.
In doing so, our troops and our allies are achieving tremendous progress. In Afghanistan terrorist training camps and sanctuaries have been destroyed, and coalition forces continue to hunt down al Qaeda remnants and Taliban holdouts. With our support, the government of Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai continues to succeed. Clean water is being provided throughout the country and hospitals and clinics are improving. The Afghan economy is expanding, the Afghan education system is growing in size and effectiveness, and democratic institutions are becoming ever stronger.
In Iraq, an evil dictatorship has been removed and today the Iraqi people enjoy sovereignty once more while renewal of their country continues. With our help, Iraqis are becoming increasingly capable of ensuring their own security. America and her coalition partners are also working to see that electricity, water service and healthcare continue to improve and expand.
Thinking of these accomplishments on the anniversary of our national independence reminds us that those first American patriots realized their goals and reaped the rewards of their beliefs only after long struggle. This great holiday with its thunderous and fiery displays also helps us remember that the founders were not the last generation to see their convictions put to the test or to have their cherished freedoms and ideals challenged on the international stage.
Our forbearers understood that even for a country founded on high principles, future years could hold trying times. As Thomas Jefferson put it, "The justest dispositions possible in ourselves, will not secure us against war. It would be necessary that all other nations were just also." Yet Jefferson and the other founders knew the world to be full of injustice.
Whether motivated by violent ambition or by armed ideologies that love only power, determined adversaries have confronted our country in every era. In each new test we have been called again by the founders' heritage to hold fast in our belief that depth of character, strength of will and persistence of effort in combination with the powerful force of freedom will triumph in the end.
In the 18th and 19th centuries Americans in uniform were called to guard our borders and vital trade routes against roving pirates and expanding empires and to preserve the union against those who sought to tear it apart. Americans were reminded anew by each adversary of the cost of their freedom and the price of their ideals.
Perhaps there could have been no more awful test of our nation's commitment to our fundamental principles than the Civil War. American fought American during five long years of grinding combat and hundreds of thousands of lives were lost on both sides. But in the end the faith of the founders was vindicated.
In speaking of the long fight to preserve the country and extend her freedoms to all Americans, Abraham Lincoln said, "The struggle of today, is not altogether for today--it is for a vast future also." Looking back, his words seem almost prophetic. The monumental achievements of Lincoln and his generation prepared our country to face the daunting challenges that have followed.
From the Civil War's bloody ordeal America emerged prosperous and industrially robust, ready by the dawn of the 20th century to establish its place among the world's great nations. With this enhanced stature came new opponents of increasing power. Militaristic empires, murderous fascist tyrannies, and brutal totalitarian states each in turn presented their challenges to American freedom and the ideals which are the foundation of our way of life.
Throughout each of the American century's titanic struggles our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coastguardsmen kept faith with the generations that had gone before, meeting the fearful odds of each great crisis with staunch resolve, certain in the knowledge that they defended liberty not only for their generation, but for all who would come after.
Today, in the opening years of the 21st century, imperialism, fascism, and communism lie moldering on the ash-heap of history while our liberty and democracy remain vibrant, a compelling testimony to the power of Americans' belief in freedom. Yet we have also been reminded that dogged opponents of our ideals still exist in the world.
The September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon revealed clearly to us a pitiless enemy steeped in an ideology of hatred, emboldened by fanatical zeal, and dedicated to a twisted vision of a repressive utopia. This is an adversary that is decentralized and stateless, yet is willing and able to strike with devastating effect on American soil, seeking to inflict maximum loss of life without distinction between military and civilians.
In confronting such a savage opponent, our warriors are well aware, as were the founders in their day, of the great task before them and the enormous risks they've assumed in the defense of liberty.
Today's terrorist's morally unconstrained approach to meting out violence and death means that we must protect our homeland by delivering combat power against this nemesis in distant lands before their intentions to strike at us can be carried out at our borders and in our cities. Fighting in far away regions also means enduring long deployments under arduous conditions with few comforts, and constantly braving the danger of sudden attack.
Nonetheless, our aircrews, intelligence specialists, satellite operators, aircraft maintainers, base defenders and many others are dedicated professionals with the knowledge, skills and talents required to field the world's best air and space expeditionary force under any conditions. They ensure that unmatched capabilities like the F/A-22 Raptor will be effectively brought to bear wherever and whenever they're needed.
Our warriors and their allies daily risk their lives in attacking the leadership and infrastructure of terrorist networks around the world. They are on the offensive denying access to safe havens, funding, material support, and freedom of movement, even while taking every possible precaution to protect innocent civilians, friendly forces, facilities, and infrastructure.
In this effort, our Airmen along with those of our coalition force continue to fly a daily average of 50 combat sorties, 50 combat support sorties, and 150 mobility sorties throughout the Southwest Asia region.
In Kyrgystan, Airmen operate and sustain a strategic hub for ground forces entering Afghanistan. Their aerial port, intra-theater lift, medevac, and aerial refueling missions make this former Soviet base vital to pursuit of terrorists in the region.
Throughout the Central Command Area of Operations, Soldiers and Airmen work side-by-side delivering special operations capabilities, combat search and rescue, and theater lift to U.S. and allied forces.
With such grueling and dangerous operations, America's men and women in uniform understand that, like many others trials our country has endured in its 228 years, the global war on terror will be a long and complex conflict. However in the face of such a great challenge we keep faith with those who declared our independence long ago on that hot summer day in Philadelphia by reaffirming in word and deed the beliefs that enabled them to succeed.
In Iraq, Afghanistan and in many other parts of a troubled world, America's warriors are called to demonstrate clearly to both the enemies of liberty, and those who would like to be free, the strength of America's character. No matter where their duty takes them, our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coastguardsmen and DoD civilians are called upon every day to show the world that there is no force of tyranny or oppression that can overcome free men and women working together to defend their freedom.
Our reward for maintaining this bond of belief with those who declared our country's independence is not only that we live up to our full potential as Americans, but that we preserve for generations yet unborn the chance to enjoy the blessings of freedom for which so many have fought and died.
So enjoy today's fireworks, feasting and joyful spirits, but as you do remember the great sacrifices our brave men and women in service to their nation are making and the sacrifices of those who served before them to ensure the freedoms we enjoy today remain as first envisioned by our founding fathers 228 years ago. Happy Fourth of July!