Friday, July 4, 2014

The Mysterious Intersection of July Fourth and Vietnam

On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress approved Thomas Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation.  This most American of holidays is marked with red, white and blue flags, fireworks, parades and backyard barbecues across the country.  Independence Day commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from England.

John Adams believed that July 2nd was the correct date on which to celebrate the birth of American independence, and turned down invitations to appear at July 4th events in protest.

Most historians have concluded that the Declaration was signed by 56 men of 13 colonies nearly a month after its adoption, on August 2, 1776, and not on July 4 as is commonly believed.

In July 1776, the estimated number of people living in the newly independent nation was 2.5 million.  The nation's estimated population on this July Fourth is 318.4 million.

In a remarkable coincidence, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence later to serve as Presidents of the United States, died on the same day: July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration. Although not a signer of the Declaration of Independence, but another Founding Father who became a President, James Monroe, died on July 4, 1831, thus becoming the third President in a row who died on this memorable day. Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President, was born on July 4, 1872, and, so far, is the only President to have been born on Independence Day.

Two American presidents were born on that day, Ulysses S. Grant and Calvin Coolidge.  George Steinbrenner, Geraldo Rivera and Malia Obama are just a few of the many public figures who celebrate their birthdays on July 4th.  It was on this day in 1939 that Lou Gerhig appeared at Yankee Stadium and gave his retirement speech, calling himself “the luckiest man on earth.”  And on this day in 2004, the cornerstone was laid for the Freedom Tower in New York City, a building that would rise from the ashes of the World Trade Center.

July Fourth is the "biggest hot dog holiday of the year," according to TIME magazine, with Americans consuming about 155 million of them on Independence Day along.  Conversely, on July 4, 1776, John Adams and wife, Abigail sat down for a celebratory turtle soup, New England poached salmon with egg sauce, green peas and boiled new potatoes in jackets.  They followed the meal with Indian pudding or Apple Pandowdy. 

Denmark, Norway, Sweden and England celebrate July 4th. National parks in Denmark are said to hold the largest 4 July celebrations outside of the US.  July 4 marks a day of liberation in both the Phillipines and Rwanda.

Ironically, Vietnam has a July 4th connection:  On September 2, 1945, Ho Chí Minh read a proclamation to thousands of Vietnamese,announcing the birth of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the country's independence from France.  "All men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."  This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Forgotten Homecoming

More than 40 years have passed and the words have never been uttered
No songs, no banners, no gratitude just people who closed their shutters
No parades, no ticker-tape, no standing ovation
Only silence, and whispers of a protesting Nation

Although there were many who might care to stand,
To reach out with gratitude and shake my hand
There were many more who took FREEDOM for granted
No concern where my mission and feet had been planted

Many had been called upon by our great Nation
To bring hope and democracy for a new generation
I served diligently with honor, humbly fighting to stay alive
The taste of FREEDOM was always my main drive

Now 45 years later as I memorialize in my mind
The battles for FREEDOM and the friends left behind.
Some ungrateful, taking FREEDOM for granted - that's ignorance
They have no concept of the cost of battle for independence

Today as I reflect on the years that have passed
I still see how Patriotism is standing steadfast
As I celebrate and appreciate another year of life
Loving my friends, my children, my wife

I embrace a generation of those that I served
And a new generation that seem un-assured
I hope that democracy, truth and decency are still alive
And the FREEDOMS many have died for will continue to thrive

God Bless America and the men and women who have sacrificed
In the name of FREEDOM!
And may I not forget the reason that I wrote this poem – 

(or never made it home) THANK YOU ~ YOU ARE NEVER FORGOTTEN

My family is GRATEFUL – 
Written by Sandra Eichler-Gonzalez
Sandra & Daughter With Navajo Code Talker, Joe Morris Sr.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Vietnam Veterans Day

On January 12, 1962, United States pilots lifted more than 1,000 South Vietnamese service members over jungle and underbrush to capture a National Liberation Front stronghold near Saigon.  Operation Chopper marked America's first combat mission against the Viet Cong, and the beginning of one of our longest and most challenging wars.  Through more than a decade of conflict that tested the fabric of our Nation, the service of our men and women in uniform stood true.  Over fifty years after that fateful mission, we honor the more than 3 million Americans who served, we pay tribute to those we have laid to rest, and we reaffirm our dedication to showing a generation of veterans the respect and support of a grateful Nation.

The Vietnam War is a story of service members of different backgrounds, colors, and creeds who came together to complete a daunting mission.  It is a story of Americans from every corner of our Nation who left the warmth of family to serve the country they loved.  It is a story of patriots who braved the line of fire, who cast themselves into harm's way to save a friend, who fought hour after hour, day after day to preserve the liberties we hold dear.  From Ia Drang to Hue, they won every major battle of the war and upheld the highest traditions of our Armed Forces.

Eleven years of combat left their imprint on a generation.  Thousands returned home bearing shrapnel and scars; still more were burdened by the invisible wounds of post-traumatic stress, of Agent Orange, of memories that would never fade.  More than 58,000 laid down their lives in service to our Nation.  Now and forever, their names are etched into two faces of black granite, a lasting memorial to those who bore conflict's greatest cost.

Our veterans answered our country's call and served with honor, and on March 29, 1973, the last of our troops left Vietnam.  Yet, in one of the war's most profound tragedies, many of these men and women came home to be shunned or neglected -- to face treatment unbefitting their courage and a welcome unworthy of their example.  We must never let this happen again.  

Today, we reaffirm one of our most fundamental obligations:  to show all who have worn the uniform of the United States the respect and dignity they deserve, and to honor their sacrifice by serving them as well as they served us.  Half a century after those helicopters swept off the ground and into the annals of history, we pay tribute to the fallen, the missing, the wounded, the millions who served, and the millions more who awaited their return.  Our Nation stands stronger for their service, and on Vietnam Veterans Day, we honor their proud legacy with our deepest gratitude.


March 29th, the anniversary of the Vietnam War, has been proclaimed as Vietnam Veterans Day, with a call to all Americans to observe this day with programs, ceremonies, and activities which are mindful of the service and sacrifices of those who served in Vietnam.  Welcome home!