The Fourth of July is upon us again. Viewed as an “American” holiday, July 4th has marked so many important moments in the lives of people worldwide.
- In 1453, 41 Jewish martyrs were burned at the stake at Breslau for their faith.
- In 1708, the Swedes, led by Swedish King Karel XII, defeated the Russians in a historic battle.
- In 1827, the State of New York abolished the practice of slavery.
- In 1845, Henry David Thoreau moved into a small shack on Walden Pond and began writing a literary classic.
- In 1884, France presented the United States with the Statue of Liberty, a symbol that welcomed millions to a new home.
- In 1950, the West began to broadcast Radio Free Europe, the voice of freedom for those crushed under the boot of communist oppression.
July 4th has marked and been celebrated as the turning point of the American Civil War, the beginning of the air offensive that brought Nazi Germany’s reign of terror to an end, and the 1976 rescue of 229 Air France passengers at the Entebbe airport by Israeli commandos.
Freedom, conceived in man’s mind, but made real and tangible through the actions of those strong few who stand and say, “I will” is the message of July 4th, regardless of one’s nationality.
The Two Legacies of Courage
The American Revolution began when a small group stated boldly that each of us has a purpose, a greater value. These men and the women who stood beside them were not the majority of Americans; they represented less than one third of the colonies population, but their belief in self-determination and commitment to see that belief brought to life is why we celebrate this day.
Courage, and its accompanying acts of change leave a legacy. Freedom from the oppression and horror of Nazism and slavery, the countless lives touched by literary genius, hope given to the hopeless behind the Iron Curtain are those portions of a brighter world, a joyful legacy.
There’s a dark legacy, as well.
The empty chairs at the table for Friday night’s dinner in 1453; the legacy of loss, the product of unshakable faith. The son, never to be reunited with his family after Pickett’s Charge or the battle for Little Round Top, lost to and remembered by only a heartbroken few. The small band of men, signing a document in 1776 that led to a nation’s forging and never knowing whose family would finish the conflict solvent, free, or even alive. Not all those who went to Entebee came home.
It’s easy to see the bright portions of our dreams and passions, but the true measure of strength is in finding purpose while standing in the darkness. I want to tell you about a group who is lighting that darkness, and finishing their story of independence and freedom.
Be the Source of Light for Someone Else
Suicides among active-duty military personnel averaged one per day in 2012. Veterans now account for twenty percent of suicides in the U.S., with the youngest (24 and under) taking their lives at four times the rate for other veteran age groups. The carnage of PTSD, the legacy passed on to those who went in to the very mouth of Hell, is real—destroying the souls of young men and women before consuming their bodies, as well.
In San Diego, there is a place where the fight for these warriors’ souls is held every day. The fighting is physical as well as spiritual. It’s orchestrated by a man named Todd Vance and called Pugilistic Offensive Warrior Mixed Martial Arts, or POW MMA.
From POW San Diego’s website:
A prisoner of war doesn’t necessarily have to be incarcerated in another country. In our case, it means returning veterans are prisoners of the memories and the experience; for us, it is our program for setting such POW’s free: Pugilistic Offensive Warrior Tactics of San Diego–a program that integrates veterans back to civilian life in healthy ways – as a brotherhood.
Returning combat veterans exit the military isolated and without guidance or direction on how to assimilate back into their old world. Often exhibiting aggressive behavior and symptoms of PTSD, they have trouble blending back into civilian life. Depression, isolation, lack of purpose, and a tendency to lash out are common.
They miss the discipline and camaraderie the military gave them. This lack of goals and struggles transitioning to civilian life and coping with the horrors of combat often leads the Veteran down unhealthy paths. Many have physical/mental wounds that limit the success and happiness of the veteran on a daily basis.
We’ve developed a program to channel the isolation and aggression into healthy ways in the company of a brotherhood, bringing back the discipline and team they left in the service, and easing the sense of isolation.
I encourage anyone interested in lending a hand to those who brought meaning to our belief in freedom to donate by visiting this link.
Take time in the next day to visit their website. If you have the means, make a donation so someone who you may never know may find a source of light in an all-consuming darkness. No one asked these men and women to go and face the unthinkable. They did it because they were called to do so. Perhaps this is merely our chance to return something lost to its rightful owner.
The Meaning of the Fourth of July for Everyone
Jew and gentile, American or European, black or white, we all share in the Fourth of July’s meaning, in its strength.
Enjoy your 4th. Train, barbeque, watch the fireworks, lay in a hammock and dream of all those who did (and still do) so much for us: teacher, firefighter, mother, warrior.
For me, I’m on my way to the UK. I’ll let our British cousins know how sorry we are for that unpleasantness back in 1776. I’m also bringing them a bill for damages for that little party they threw in 1812, though.
Happy Fourth of July!