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July Fourth swells the soul with patriotic feelings

(Editor's Note: This column was originally printed in the June 28, 1995 issue of The Greenville Advocate.)

Regardless of whatever we call this celebration of watermelon and ice cream, cookouts and wading pools, bunting and fireworks, it stands for the sacrifice of many long years of Americans.

We stand here in the summer, gazing skyward at the massive pyrotechnical displays and think about our ancestors who truly understood firsthand, "the rocket's red glare" and "bombs bursting in air." When we proudly display the Stars and Stripes, it brings to mind Tripoli and Kettle Hill and Verdun and Iwo Jima and Chosin and DaNang and Kuwait and a thousand other nameless places where the blue of the sea and the white of the sand have been mingled with the red blood of Americans paying the ultimate price for independence.

This celebration means that we can sing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" or "Dixie" or "We Shall Overcome" and do so without fear of retribution. It means that our voices can be joined in praise or in concern or in anger and speak the common language of freedom. It means that I still can't hear the "Star Spangled Banner" played without having chill bumps run up my back.

Freshly mown grass; the scent of bottle rockets; the laughter of children that jumps from octave to octave as they run through the waves of a sprinkler; the sound of an ice cream freezer being turned; the cool of an icy Coke bottle pressed to a sweltering forehead; the pride in watching fifty stars and thirteen stripes wave majestically in the wind; the Braves leading by three in the eighth; Coppertone and Panama City Beach sand forming an industrial strength abrasive in the back of your shorts; the peace that hangs full in the air as the sun dips below the trees: these are all images that conjure up what the Fourth feels like to me.

There's another independence that's very dear to me as well. It was paid some twenty centuries ago upon a rough wooded cross on a dusty, barren hillside called Calvary. The freedom gained that day has lasted through the years, but it, too, was not without its own cost. It, too, was paid in blood.

As we join as neighbors to celebrate the 219th birthday of America, let us remember that with freedom comes responsibility. It is up to us to regulate our own actions, to govern with wisdom, to listen with our ears and our minds and to never forget that the price of freedom is vigilant against all who strive to undermine our way of life.

God bless America!