Many Americans can easily recall the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence which enshrines life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as the core ideals of the American republic. Fewer remember the last sentence in the Declaration which commits the signers to defending those ideals:
It reads, “With a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
56 men signed the Declaration. Five were captured by the British as traitors; 12 had their homes burned.
Nine fought and died from wounds in the Revolutionary War.
At the battle of Yorktown one of the signers, Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was shelled by American artillery, and Nelson later died bankrupt.
In the course of our 235 years as a free Nation millions of Americans have given their lives and fortunes in defense of these ideals. Today, another 200,000 are overseas defending our freedoms having committed themselves even as the signers did.
In these difficult times it is good to remember there have been more difficult times in our history. And, from each challenge, America has emerged stronger because citizens possessed the courage to defend our freedoms.
Remember the Signers and all Americans who followed their example on this 235th Anniversary of the Founding of the Nation.
On behalf of the Naval Institute Professional Staff, best wishes for a warm, family Independence Day weekend.
Semper Fortis, Fidelis & Paratus
General Thomas L. Wilkerson, USMC (Ret.)
Chief Executive Officer