As we gear up for one of America’s favorite holiday weekends over the Fourth of July, where West Virginians gather together for parades, barbeques, picnics and fireworks, let us also remember the true reasons why we observe this national celebration. Two hundred and thirty-eight years ago, our Founding Fathers signed a document that inscribed our freedoms, defined our core values, secured our liberties and fathered our traditions.

Our Declaration stated, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” More than two centuries later, these principles ring true not only in West Virginia, but across the United States, and continue to keep America strong, resilient and proud today.

Although we must never forget our Founding Fathers and the values they instilled in us, we also must never forget those who fought and died for the freedoms we enjoy today. Americans will be forever grateful to the brave individuals who courageously marched into battle against the Redcoats with the hopes of building new lives for themselves and their families and gaining independence from tyranny and injustice.

While many more fought on battlefields around the world following those first battlefields, we continue to honor our brave servicemembers who risk their lives day in and day out to defend our nation. We should thank our veterans every day for their service, but during this holiday, I encourage us all to pay a special tribute and thank them for their patriotism and commitment to serving our great country. It’s simple. If you see a vet, thank a vet. It is because of their heroic efforts, and the efforts of those who have served before them, that we are celebrating Independence Day today.

And now, on this beautiful holiday, as veterans and civilians come together to rejoice our freedoms, salute our flag and celebrate everything red, white and blue, I recall this patriotic poem my uncle A. James Manchin used to recite. These words always bring me a smile, and I hope that you and yours enjoy it, too:

It’s only some stripes of red and white.
It’s only some stars on a field of blue.
It’s only a little cotton flag;
Does it mean anything to you?

Oh yes it does.
For beneath its folds
Our people are safe at land and sea.
It stands for a land where God is still king,
And his truth and His freedoms are free.
So, let us love it well and keep it pure as our banner of liberty.

So as we come together for festivities, let’s remember that Independence Day is a time to reflect on our nation’s history and honor the individuals who have sacrificed for the liberties we treasure.

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