There were moments during the Jan. 6th insurrection when I wondered whether our nation would have the chance to celebrate its 245th birthday.
Thankfully, we’re again celebrating our nation’s independence, and perhaps more than any other generation in American history we’re aware of just how delicate our democratic institutions are.
I often think about my Uncle John during the Fourth of July. An immigrant to the United States, John served in the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) of the All-American 82nd Airborne Division during World War II.
During his service in the 82nd John made three combat jumps, including Sicily in 1943 and Normandy and Holland in 1944. In his second combat jump his unit fought at Sainte-Mère-Église in the opening hours of the D-Day invasion, and later in 1944 helped stop the German offensive at St. Vith during the Battle of the Bulge.
John returned home from the war affected by the destruction he’d seen in Europe, and was determined to make our nation’s legacy one of building rather than destruction. He would’ve been shocked at the sight of Americans attacking our nation’s capital on Jan. 6th.
When I served as a pallbearer at John’s funeral, I remember meeting several of his Airborne colleagues and being aware that even in their advanced age they were “sizing me up” against my uncle, who had been a boxer prior to the war.
And on this Fourth of July weekend I hope I’ve measured up in some small way to the opportunities facilitated by my Uncle John, his comrades who survived the war and those who didn’t, and all those who have served our nation to build upon the promise of not only the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, but the Voting Rights Act and a democracy in which all our fellow citizens can vote without hindrance.
Our nation is incarnate today as it was 245 years ago in 1776, in all its imperfections, successes, failures, and opportunity. My wish is that we continue to work toward a nation where what happened on Jan. 6th never happens again.
Have a safe and enjoyable Independence Day.