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I love Neil Diamond's songs.
I have been a fan for the past 50 years during which he has written lyrics and music, sung and performed. One of my all-time favorite songs is "America" also known as "Coming to America." Towards the end, the lyrics go; "My country tis of thee; sweet land of liberty of thee I sing."
To me, this is what the 4th of July, aka America's Independence Day, is all about.
Well, OK, I love grilling hotdogs and hamburgers, munching on Olathe sweet corn, sipping a really cold beer and eating homemade ice cream. Oh yes, I love the fireworks displays which the various cities put on. Skip shooting off individual fireworks - too noisy, too expensive and disruptive to the neighbors and their pets.
Recalling your American history
Let's focus on the real meaning of celebrating our Independence Day. How good is everyone at recalling their American history?
Was it the North Koreans, Viet Cong, Germans, Russians or British who had the American colonies under their rule? Of course, it was the British with King George III and his various taxes which were imposed on the colonists.
What was the date of our declared independence from Britain? Was it December 7, 1941, July 4, 1776, after the War of 1812, Lincoln's birthday or November 11, 1918? Well, that is an easy one. It's July 4, 1776.
Now then, what was the final, concluding battle in the American Revolutionary War in which the colonists and the French defeated the British military? Was it Gettysburg, Pa; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Philadelphia, Pa; Yorktown, Va; or Concord, Mass? While all of the other locations have historic prominence, it was Yorktown when British General Cornwallis surrendered.
Fireworks and injuries
What would a 4th of July celebration be without fireworks? While we all enjoy the big aerial displays which area cities and the Rockies baseball team sponsor, many folks have the itch to "shoot off" fireworks of their own.
The excitement is hard to elude. Sky rockets, roman candles, pop bottle rockets, firecrackers, cherry bombs, pin wheels and sparklers are all favorites.
Unfortunately, fireworks equate to injuries. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireworks injuries in America caused nearly 10,500 injuries requiring emergency room treatment in 2014 (the most current year for data gathered). The report also showed that nearly 1,300 eye injuries took place caused by fireworks and required emergency room treatment. This figure is more than double the 600 injuries reported in 2012. It should be pointed out that these injuries are not necessarily from handling the explosives. Nearly 50 percent of people injured by fireworks were bystanders. Children are frequent victims with 35 percent who were injured by fireworks are age 15 and under according to the commission's findings.
A salute to all who made our freedom possible
While we recently honored our veterans and the price they paid for our freedom, let's not forget their service to our country starting with the American Revolutionary War.
We are thankful to the men who crossed the Delaware River with General Washington and fought at Lexington/Concord.
We are thankful for Generals Andrew Jackson and Winfield Scott and their men in defeating the British in the War of 1812.
We are thankful for Sgt. Alvin York and the American Dough Boys who fought in the trenches in WWI to help defeat the Germans.
We are thankful for our sailors in the Battle of Midway and our Marines defeating the Japanese on Iwo Jima.
We are thankful for our nurses and soldiers who knew Pork Chop Hill in the Korean Conflict.
We are thankful to all of our veterans who fought the unpopular war in Viet Nam to defend freedom in South Viet Nam.
And finally, we are thankful to our men and women who served in the Middle East in the various battles fighting Saddam Hussein's soldiers, the Taliban and ISIS. God bless you all for keeping America "the home of the brave and the land of the free." Can't you hear Neil Diamond singing "my country tis of thee; sweet land of liberty of thee I sing"? I sure can.
Enjoy your July Fourth celebration
I hope you have an enjoyable and safe Independence Day celebration with family and friends while remembering the meaning of the holiday and the price that our veterans have paid over the centuries to preserve our everyday freedoms.
Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.
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