...who really wanted to break away from England. However, as British rule appeared tyrannical and writings such as Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” spread throughout the land, independence became more than just a concept. After a heated debate, the Continental Congress appointed a five-man committee to draft a formal statement to declare a break from Great Britain. On June 7, 1776, Virginia’s Richard Henry Lee put forth a formal motion to declare independence. Voting was held on July 2, 1776 and it was passed almost unanimously (New York abstained at the time). Future President John Adams wrote to his wife: “July 2 will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.” Adams also hoped that the celebration would include pomp, parade, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations (fireworks) all across the land. On July 4, Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, which forever became marked as the day that Americans celebrated Independence Day. It is most fitting that on July 4, 1826 that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died within hours of each other.
Americans have been celebrating the holiday since the first commemoration on July 4, 1777. By the 1790s, both major political parties (Federalists and Democratic-Republicans) even held separate celebrations in the larger cities. In 1870, July 4 was made a federal holiday by Congress and by 1941, all federal employees were given the day as a paid holiday. Across the country including at Thomas Jefferson’s own home of Monticello, located about sixty miles from Liberty University, hundreds of immigrants take the oath of citizenship and become Americans on July 4.
There are multiple stories of thousands of service members who for many years have chosen July 4 as the day to reenlist in the military. In fact, the largest reenlistment ceremony that was ever held in American military history took place on July 4, 2008 at the former Al-Faw Palace in Baghdad, Iraq as General David Petraeus administered the oath of enlistment to 1,215 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. Since the days of the initial fight for American freedom, Department of Defense records indicate that there have been approximately more than 1.35 million who paid the ultimate price, 1.5 million who were wounded and nearly 41,000 who remain missing in action
As our nation nears its 241st birthday on July 4, 2017, let us pause to remember what our flag actually represents. According to Secretary of the Continental Congress Charles Thompson, the white signifies purity and innocence, the red stands for hardiness and valor, while the blue is for vigilance, perseverance and justice.
Beth White served ten years with the Virginia Defense Force including three years as Virginia’s only female S-3. She has served within the Office of Military Affairs in a variety of capacities for fourteen of nineteen years at Liberty University. Beth is also married to a Vietnam veteran of the United States Air Force. She is currently finishing her Education Specialist degree at Liberty University.