As small children, we gazed in open-mouthed wonder at red, white and blue fireworks illuminating the night sky. Every year, we watched during this joyous nation-wide celebration of the birth of our country. We learned about the Declaration of Independence and the courageous men and women who believed so strongly in freedom they were willing to sacrifice their own lives. We studied our history textbooks and examined paintings of men in powdered wigs huddled together around this great document-the foundation of the United States. And as adults, we understand the importance of the history of our nation’s independence-forged by bravery and strength of will.
This year, many of us will celebrate Independence Day just as we have since we were small children. Wearing our red, white and blue, we will go on picnics, eat barbeque, light sparklers and watch brilliant fireworks.
We can enjoy this quality of life because our military men and women, like the Founding Fathers, believe wholeheartedly in freedom. For West Virginians, Independence Day holds a particular poignancy. With the highest per capita percentage of residents in the military, we all know someone-a mother, father, brother, sister or a friend-who has served or is serving. We understand that our safety and freedom is possible because of the countless men and women throughout history who have served and sacrificed to preserve the freedoms we enjoy each day.
As the only state to secede from the Confederacy during the Civil War, West Virginia’s birth parallels the birth of our nation. Our heritage is one of independence and perseverance. West Virginia, like the United States embodies the spirit of freedom. As a state we are strong and resilient. “Mountaineers are always free” and so are all Americans, because of the lives, words and time of many courageous men and women.
This Independence Day, I encourage you to give thought to the men and women who have shaped our state and nation into the home we enjoy today. While you watch your children and grandchildren wave sparklers in the air, shouting and laughing, remember the great history and freedom we as West Virginians and Americans have to celebrate.