The price of freedom

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jarad A. Denton
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

What began as a unanimous declaration of independence by the "thirteen united States of America," July 4, 1776, grew into the most powerful Nation in the world - founded on the principles of equality and "certain unalienable Rights."

"Since the American Revolution, Independence Day has been a prominent fixture and rallying point for Americans at war," said Ryan Warner, 28th Bomb Wing historian. "No other event in the organization of this country solidifies the essence of America. From turning the tide of the Civil War at Gettysburg, July 4, 1863, to the joint forces on the front lines of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, Independence Day resonates with every Airman, soldier, sailor, Coast guardsman and Marine."

This year, the United States celebrates the 234th anniversary of its independence from Great Britain. However, amidst all the barbecues and fireworks, many Airmen pause to remember the sacrifices made by their fellow servicemembers during the long journey to freedom.

"During World War II, Airmen celebrated America's freedom silently while prisoners of war," Mr. Warner said. "In Vietnam, July 4, 1965, Airmen at De Nang Air Base suffered a devastating mortar barrage, completely destroying three aircraft. The following year those downed pilots were paraded through the streets of Hanoi on American Independence Day."

Today, Airmen continue to celebrate Independence Day while deployed in hostile locations. Airmen from the 28th Civil Engineer Squadron, explosive ordnance disposal flight, are no strangers to frequent deployments to combat zones.

"I was deployed to Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan during the 4th of July, 2008," said Master Sgt. Anthony Blackmon, 28 CES, EOD flight chief. "There were some somber moments thinking of the guys in the outlaying forward operating bases that couldn't join in [the small celebration on base]. We received some pictures from the guys and their rendition of celebrating the 4th. It was good to know that the guys and gals made do with what they had and still came out smiling."

Sergeant Blackmon said it gives him hope and strength knowing despite the military operations going on downrange, there is a moment where servicemembers can put things aside and come together in honor of Independence Day.

"It always humbles me to know that as diverse of a country as we are, we always come together for the common good of the people," he said. "No matter who they are or where they live."

While the brief downtime and short-lived festivities which occur in a deployed environment have replaced the friends, fireworks and food commonly associated with Independence Day - Mr. Warner believes Airmen are still poised to carry on the celebration, despite the hardships they may face.

"The moral fiber of America's Airmen is ingrained with a rich history of freedom, passed down through the generations, ensuring future generations can live in peace," he said. "It is that sacrifice which is the very idea of independence; a cause truly worth celebrating."