Land of the free

Commentary by Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Shon Neyland
51st Fighter Wing Chaplain

6/27/2011 – OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea — “He who is brave is free.” Seneca, Roman Philosopher, 1st Century

Did you know that it was in the city of brotherly love that the church bells rang and sounded the alarm for freedom? Yes, in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776 the bells rang signifying that the Declaration of Independence was approved and officially adopted by the Continental Congress, thus America was born.

This weekend, the bells will symbolically ring again, once again reminding us of our freedom.

I am sure we are all looking forward to the long Independence Day holiday this weekend. This is a time for parades, carnivals, family, picnics, concerts, friends, and of course, fireworks.

They are all representative of the American Dream and the freedom so many have paid the ultimate price for. We deserve to celebrate our freedom, but make sure we do it responsibly and honor those who have given us this right. Always have a Wingman with you and help each other out to make the right decisions.

A celebration of freedom on the Fourth of July in America means we are standing on the “shoulders of giants” who have paved the way for us. We cannot forget why we celebrate.

America is the land of opportunity, where patriotism, justice, dignity, and honor rise to the forefront. It is indeed the “land of the free and home of the brave” where those who have gone before us fought for freedom and gave their lives to defend this great nation.

President John F. Kennedy said it best, “We dare not forget that we are the heirs of that first revolution.” Who can forget the infamous lyrics form “Proud to be an American” by Lee Greenwood and when he sings, “And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.” I still swell with pride when I hear that song. It is amazing!

I even get emotional at times during the National Anthem because I think about the almost 100 Repatriation Services I attended while deployed, some of which I led. Those services in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan, which paid tribute to those who died in combat, remind us of why we do what we do around the world in defense of our nation and its allies. I shall never forget those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for all of our freedom and liberty.

America is still strong despite shifts in the economy. We still have the world’s greatest military. Further, the American Dream does not stop at our borders and extends to millions around the world who look to us for hope and freedom.

We are bringing liberty to lands where tyranny once ruled. We also recognize we cannot do it alone and we are grateful for our allies who have stood and fought by our side. The wars continue and the battles go on for democracy, justice, and human rights around the world. Yes, I am proud to be an American.

Therefore, as you celebrate with your family, friends, and wingmen this Fourth of July, I want to encourage you to take a moment to remember the hundreds of thousands who died to give us that right. Let’s salute them and honor their sacrifices by doing our best to make America proud and serving with excellence as we continue to fight for freedom.

President Abraham Lincoln said it best, “I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.”