It was 233 years ago that founder John Adams, speaking about the birth of our nation, predicted that the July anniversary would be "celebrated by succeeding generations" as a great festival that "ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty." The Massachusetts founder's prescription for paying tribute to the day included "pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other from this time forward forever more."
On that first July occasion, he also acknowledged the "toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost" to maintain and defend this nation. All these years later, John Adams' words continue to ring true.
This fourth of July, millions of Oklahomans will join with other Americans to celebrate the birth of liberty in the United States. We have celebrated this birthday during times of peace and times of war, times of great prosperity and times of great difficulty, times of confidence and times of uncertainty. Regardless of the circumstances, Americans around the world commemorate this day in the way Adams envisioned.
What then of the sacrifice? John Adams and the other signers of the Declaration of Independence knew that their stand for liberty and independence would come at a great price. During the Revolutionary War, many of these brave men lost their fortunes and possessions, fought side-by-side with the volunteers of the militia, and gave their life and the lives of their loved ones for the sake of liberty. Through it all, they never gave up their vision of freedom from tyranny.
The sacrifices made by these early Americans began a tradition that each succeeding generation has carried on, paying a high price to defend this nation, our freedoms, and the freedoms of others. Often, the cost of freedom has demanded the blood of our men and women on the battlefield.
Since Oklahoma statehood in 1907, many in our state have had a long and proud tradition of serving the country through military service. Through two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other conflicts, many Oklahomans have paid the ultimate sacrifice in a foreign land while fighting for this nation. We are eternally grateful to generations of Americans, past and present, for guaranteeing the freedom our founders envisioned at the birth of our nation. They made America the greatest nation on earth.
Thankfully, the tradition of volunteers willing to defend freedom is not just something for the history books. American patriots still exist today. I have seen them fighting on the front lines of Iraq and Afghanistan. I have talked to them where they are stationed around the globe. Today, over 3,000 Oklahomans are deployed in support of the War on Terror and over 30,000 have deployed since September 11th, 2001. These patriots today are paving the way for future generations to enjoy July 4th celebrations. As long as this country produces such heroic individuals, we will remain free.
As we celebrate this July 4th, mere words will never fully express the gratitude this nation owes to those who have served and continue to serve. May we celebrate this day with the grandeur it deserves and with the solemn recognition and gratitude to those who have made it possible.
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) is a senior ranking member on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.
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