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The Declaration of Independence and Us

SAF/PA 2010 Air Force Public Affairs

Independence Day, 2010

Although the United States Air Force is a mere 62 years old, we have the honor today to share in the heritage, celebration and protection of a nation founded by our forefathers to be a free nation based on the principles of a federal republic -- with self-governing States united by a central government of these United States of America -- 234 years ago. 

On July 4th, 1776, during the throws of the Revolutionary War with Great Britain, the Second Continental Congress unanimously signed a document listing grievances against the King of Great Britain in order to justify before the world why the Colonies in America were absolving their allegiance to the British Crown. This document declared that the Thirteen United Colonies in America "are, and of Right ought to be, free and independent States," and that all political connection between the States and Great Britain be dissolved. 

This document is known today as our Declaration of Independence. 

This "Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America" is the foundation -- the cornerstone -- of the nation we live in today -- a nation, where, in the words written in the Declaration, "all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." 

This Declaration served to sever the ties with a tyrannical government and pave the way for the next founding document that serves as the beacon for our Air Force today -- The United States Constitution - the same Constitution that every officer, non-commissioned officer and enlisted member of the United States military today voluntarily swears, or affirms, to support and defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic; and that they will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.

But, it didn't take a piece of parchment paper to get our forefathers to volunteer to join the Continental Army in 1775 in defense of their new homeland. It was a hope and dream that one day they would live in a free and democratic society - one that they forged for us 234 years ago.

Today, we celebrate our nation's independence - and at the same time, hold tight to the hopes and dreams of our forefathers for our children and our children's children - for those same hopes and dreams are not only ours to nurture, but ours to protect.

President Ronald Reagan said, "Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again." 

Ladies and gentlemen, today, we are at war. This war though, is not a fight for independence, but a fight to retain and sustain our independence from those that do not honor or respect it. If there were a silver lining surrounding the shroud of war, it is our opportunity to spread the word of the principles written into our Declaration of Independence that "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" are unalienable Rights -- Rights to be shared by all. 

And the word first spread in 1776.

On July 9th, 1776, five days after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, General George Washington issued a General Order to his brigade commanders to read the Declaration by Congress "with an audible voice, " the General said, to the entire Continental Army, in the "hopes this important Event will serve as a fresh incentive to every officer, and soldier to act with fidelity and Courage on knowing that now the peace and safety of (our) Country depends solely on the successes of our arms." 

These same words ring true today -- that our country depends on the successes of our arms - on the successes of the United States Air Force -- in Air, Space and Cyberspace.

"Today, we have more than 39,000 Airmen deployed to 260 locations across the globe, as an additional 130,000 Airmen support combatant command operations from their home stations," defending our nation and defending our nation's interests abroad. "While our operations tempo is high, our Nation's Airmen continue to set the standard for excellence. We are continuously reminded of the courage, commitment, and sacrifice (that our Airmen) offer on a daily basis." 

These same ideals were embraced by the 56 brave men who signed our Declaration, and the volunteers in the Continental Army under General Washington more than 230 years ago who pledged to each other their Lives, their Fortunes, and their sacred Honor to support the Declaration of Independence. 

By volunteering to serve our country today, Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines, have also pledged their lives and sacred honor to defend it. As were our forefathers, "...We are entrusted with the security of our nation, the protection of its citizens, and the preservation of its way of life." said General Ronald Fogleman, our 15th Air Force Chief of Staff. "... we serve as guardians of America's future... "through the successes of your chosen profession, the profession of arms. "No other profession expects its members to lay down their lives for their friends, families, or freedoms," the General said. 

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley said, "I believe that we serve because our service has a noble purpose: the preservation of our Constitution and an American way of life. We serve because the nation, our American ideals and the people we serve are worth all the dedication and sacrifice required for their defense, worth everything we have as individuals to give even life itself. We serve because we know that, in the grand sweep of history, the American experiment is unfinished and its long term success in a dynamic global environment cannot be taken for granted." 

Our founding fathers knew this all too well. They knew our nation could be free of tyranny and they stood their ground to get it. They knew what Americans could do living in free and independent States -- and now it's up to us to continue to make it better.

And with that, I want to wish us all, again, a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Thank you.

1 Declaration of Independence;

2 Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural Message as Governor of California January 5, 1967 and his Memorial Day 1984 speech as President; Reagan Library; 

3 George Washington Papers;

4 Michael B. Donley and Gen. Norton Schwartz; Memorial Day 2010; Dual signature letter May 28, 2010; 

5 Declaration of Independence; 

6  Gen Ronald R. Fogleman, Chief of Staff, United States Air Force; The Profession of Arms; pg 1.; 
7 Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley; Remarks at the National Character and Leadership Symposium, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo., Feb. 19, 2010;