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Freedom is not free. It is paid with every drop of blood, sweat, and tears of our men and women who serve or has served in the armed forces.

Surrender of Lord Cornwallis

Surrender of Cornwallis

The battles, sacrifices, and difficult odds of the Americans came to a victorious turning point of the revolutionary war as Lord Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown. This significant event was witnessed by James Thacker who describe the event in his Military Journal in 1823.

"At about 12 o'clock the combined army was drawn up in two lines more than a mile in length, the Americans on the right side of the road, the French on the left. Washington, mounted on a noble steed, and attended by his staff, was in front of the former; the Count de Rochambeau and his suite, of the latter. The French troops, in complete uniform, and well equipped, made a brilliant appearance, and had marched to the ground with a band of music playing, which was a novelty in the American service. The American troops, but part in uniform, and all in garments much the worse for wear, yet had a spirited, soldier-like air, and were not the worse in the eyes of their countrymen for bearing the marks of hard service and great privations..."

"About two o'clock the garrison sallied forth, and passed through with shouldered arms, slow and solemn steps, colors cased, and drums beating a British march. They were all clad, having been furnished with new suits prior to the capitulation. They were led by General O'Hara on horseback, who, riding up to General Washington, took off his hat and apologized for the non-appearance of Lord Cornwallis, on account of indisposition. Washington received him with dignified courtesy, but pointed to Major General Lincoln as the officer who was to receive the submission of the garrison."

Upon accepting this submission the British marched to their surrender to a then popular tune "The World Turned Upside Down". A peculiar choice of music still highlights the interests of many historians concerning the surrender. As Americans and French soldiers stood to witness one of the greatest military forces of the world submit to the victory of an unlikely and impossible opponent, I can't help but think of the character of the Americans. It is a lesson that has been passed down to every soldier since. A lesson of respect to a defeated enemy.

Over the past few years, these soldiers saw their families suffer, friends and fellow soldiers killed, homes destroyed, while they endured the hardships that only soldiers can experience. Now, all of their dreams and hopes of victory is before them. Their enemy stands in front of them. The same enemy who took everything from them or inflicted all these hardships upon them. I reflect in amazement that revenge was the least of all the items on their agenda. Their treatment of the enemy after the surrender was nothing less than superior. A day after Cornwallis' surrender he wrote the following:

"The Treatment, in general, that we have received from the enemy since our surrender, has been perfectly good and proper; but the kindness and attention that has been shown us by the French officers in particular, their delicate sensibility of our situation, their generous and pressing offer of money, has really gone beyond what I can possibly describe, and will, I hope, make an impression on the breast of every British officer, whenever the fortune of war should put any of them into our power."

While Americans won the war they never lost sight of the humanity of living. Many may question the need for war and ignorantly pursue philosophies of anti-war policies. However, Americans of the Revolutionary War were resolved that only through war comes peace. This same generosity of humanity continues on today with traditions of our military heroes serving to protect this great nation.

Today we see how the armed forces are helping to build and rejuvenate various nations that were once at war with us. We offer assistance and education to poverished nations who lingered in dispair because of evil dictatorships. Like World War I and II, and Korea, our soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen are helping to restore Iraq and Afghanistan. This gesture has been going on since our beginnings. It is what makes America great.

As we reflect on our Independence, let us not forget the sacfrices made to make us a free nation under God. Let us not forget that at the core of America lays the unstoppable thirst for freedom. This is the binding tie that unites every US citizen. In our laws and in our way of life, freedom is the foundation that this country was founded upon. May we continue the tradition of keeping this country free.

Sacrifice for free is not duty but an honor.

 

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