AL ASAD, Iraq -- Following its adoption in July 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read to the public in various American cities. Whenever it was heard, patriots erupted in cheer and celebration.
In 1777, a year after John Hancock, the President of the 2nd Continental Congress, signed the Declaration of Independence, Philadelphians remembered the 4th of July with ringing bells, firing guns, lighting candles, and setting off fireworks.
When the Revolutionary War ended in 1783, July 4 became a holiday in only certain places around the country. In Boston, it replaced the date of the Boston Massacre, March 5, as its major patriotic holiday. Speeches, military events, parades and fireworks marked the day. In 1941, Congress declared July 4 a federal holiday.
The second president, John Adams, would have approved. "I believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival," he wrote his wife, Abigail. "It ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other..."
For Marines serving in Iraq there may not be pomp or parades, but the holiday was celebrated during an Independence Day observance here.
“It is important to celebrate and not forget the importance of the Fourth of July,” said Cmdr. Ron Brown, command chaplain for the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing here. Following the sentiments of a fellow chaplain, Brown said, “Millions of people have served the armed forces in our country, but billions of people around the world have reaped the benefits of those service members.”
The observance was highlighted by guest speaker, Col. John T. Rahm, the chief of staff for the forward deployed 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, who spoke on the importance of preserving freedom for everyone in the world.
Rahm, who grew up near Valley Forge, Penn., and spent his childhood visiting Carpenters Hall and the Liberty Bell, began with a brief history of how Thomas Jefferson and the other committee members put together their draft of the Declaration. Rahm further explained how Jefferson and John Adams had an argument and eventually decided Jefferson would write the rough draft of the historic document.
After the brief history and some interesting trivia, Rahm got to his main point. He highlighted for those gathered the difference between the rough draft written by Jefferson and the final product we know today.
“In Thomas Jefferson’s original draft of the Declaration of Independence he wrote, ‘all men are created equal and independent and from that equal creation they derive in rights inherent and inalienables, among which are the preservation of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,’” Rahm said. “When the Continental Congress made their changes they took out ‘the preservation of…’ and just made it simply ‘among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’”
“Well I agree with Jefferson his words were better,” Rahm said. “We have preserved life and liberty. We have the right to be here in Iraq, Nicaragua, Grenada, Vietnam and Afghanistan.”
Serving in Iraq during this prestigious holiday is an honor for the service members here.
“I feel like I am fulfilling Thomas Jefferson’s words,” the Valley Forge, area native said. “We have the right to preserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
“When we first celebrated our Independence we were in a struggle to maintain our own freedoms,” Brown said. “And now we are doing the same. We are helping the Iraqi people gain and maintain the freedoms we have enjoyed for our entire lives.”
The Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom on the Fourth of July are fighting a similar battle to the one fought more than 200 years ago. Although not fighting for their own freedom, service members here are fighting for the ideals Jefferson had intended in 1776; to preserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.
*For more information about this story please contact Cpl. Herron at firstname.lastname@example.org*