Marines are deservedly looked upon with admiration and respect. The Corps puts much pomp and ceremony in its own precious holidays--such as the Marine Corps birthday, but America pays homage to the entire military on occasion, only to lay in the scrapheap of forgotten lore, the sacrifices that are made daily by our military. Memorial Day and Veterans Day are two such holidays. Aside from a few small parades and the propensity of families to go on vacations on those weekends, there is not much anticipation leading up to them. Independence Day, on the other hand, holds a special place in the heart of Americans. The traditions that have grown over two centuries play a major part in the adulation that is felt and displayed on July 4. Some of my fondest memories in Okinawa, Japan, are from the legendary Fourth of July picnics my family attended. America holds its tradition of fireworks dear, and it is one of those celebrations that has sort of defined what it is like to be an American. No, we don't light fireworks all the time, and we certainly aren't perfect, but we are family. We are united by a common creed, and we hold the distinction of being the only nation on the earth that was both founded and long maintained on the principle of the equality of basic human worth. Will we remember it, though, when we must? I sometimes wonder. As Marines, looked upon by the nation as models of American grit and determination, it is imperative that we pay close attention to the meaning of Independence Day, and why we celebrate it on July the Fourth--The Glorious Fourth!

Our Constitution was drafted in 1787, but we equate our nation's birth, not with the adoption of our laws, but with our independence--our freedom from tyranny. But was King George much of a tyrant? The taxes he instituted were not all that severe, at least compared to the whopping amount we pay today. In exchange, the king even promised his protection to the colonies. Fighting between the colonies and Great Britain had been going on for over a year by July of 1776. George III declared the colonies in a state of rebellion on August 23, 1775. The Continental Congress created an army and appointed George Washington as the commander-in-chief. Though regimented resources were scarce, they had experienced some successes, and were even ambitious enough to encroach into Canadian territory, as well. Why would this nation not, then, recognize the first instance of armed resistance to tyranny? They all seem like logical points of origin for the United States.

The reason America celebrates on July 4th is, as it turns out, our founders were declaring independence from more than just Great Britain, King George, oppressive taxation, and even arbitrary laws and punishment. That was actually done on July 2nd, when the Continental Congress adopted a resolution introduced by Richard Henry Lee and John Adams to separate from Britain. While freedom from tyranny was important in their decision, it was just a symptom or effect of the problem, so Adams, Jefferson, and the rest of the Continental Congress declared independence from something more profound -- an entire mindset that made all mankind subject to oppression for all of human history.

"When in the Course of human events," the draft begins "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."

Like a foghorn announcing the coming ship, those first statesmen boldly announced not only their intention to permanently separate from their parent country, but the premise on which they would base their argument. Although the second paragraph is the most often cited of the Declaration, the first is also important. One can imagine how infuriated "Mad" King George must have been when he read it, for he then sent thousands of troops to quell the rebellion.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Independence Day, thus, is more than simply a day to spend away from work. It is a reminder for all time that the most egregious tyranny that can possibly be inflicted on a people is the tyranny that serves to control the manner in which they think--to keep them servile to a human entity with power in exchange for security. Rights are inherent because they come from God. Notably, we do not celebrate the instrument created to protect God-given rights, because for all of the Constitution's brilliance, save the second amendment, it does not serve to give us any profound understanding of why it exists. The Declaration of Independence, on the other hand, does provide invaluable rhetoric that reminds us of a common identity to which we can all cling when, as the time will come, we are forced to stand united against tyranny once again. The Declaration of Independence is the true reason behind our celebration of July 4th. So go see the fireworks if you must, have a cookout and relax! But remember this day, and the mindset that spawned it, is the reason we have survived over 200 years without falling to absolute despotism. Happy Independence Day, Marines. Make the most of it.

Semper Fi!