Thursday, July 04, 2013

CVA 4th of July Message

Just like you, Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) will spend Thursday celebrating the birth of our nation with our friends and family. 

But as we celebrate, let's take time to reflect on the costs paid by those who earned our freedoms, and remember that freedom isn't free.

That's a point that Chuck McDougald, CVA's Western Region Director, makes in the following guest column, reflecting on the strong connection between independence and service.  Chuck lives in Northern California and is a veteran of the U.S. Army Special Forces (1964-69), and his piece below is a timely and sobering reminder of how much some have given to defend freedom-and the debts we can never fully repay to those who have worn the uniform. 

Happy July 4 to all of CVA's friends, and thank you for your service and support. 

God Bless,

Concerned Veterans for America

Celebrating Independence Day
By Chuck McDougald

On Independence Day, I will join my friends from American Legion Post 82 in San Mateo, CA to host a carnival at the V.A. Hospital in Menlo Park for our sick and injured veterans and their families.  There will be plenty of food and entertainment and the families, particularly the children, will enjoy themselves.  This celebration will reinforce why I am glad to live in the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

Each year, we celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence just as Founder John Adams suggested in a letter to his wife Abigail, "It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty.  It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."

It wouldn't be a bad idea to grab a cold beverage, find some shade, sit down and re-read the Declaration of Independence to understand why John Adams thought it ought to be commemorated with "Acts of Devotion to God Almighty" and "Bonfires and Illuminations".

The second paragraph grabs you and won't let go:  "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."  And, the ringing conclusion, "We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor," still send shivers up my spine.  

Those were tough times 237 years ago.  King George did not tolerate such disobedience.  The slightest display of disrespect could bring a public flogging, imprisonment, torture, or, worse, hanging.  So, woe be to the signers of this document.  Yet, these brave men did not hesitate.  They had the courage to stand up for what they believed in, and they did what they thought was right. 

I remember a time when living in the land of the free and home of the brave seemed like a cruel joke to me.  Discharged from the Army in June 1969, I flew home to Georgia.  A hippie spit on my boots in the airport and called me a baby killer.  That shocked me.  I had just returned from Vietnam.  I knew the war was unpopular but I did not anticipate the hatred most people exhibited toward those in uniform.  Only the intercession of two Marines prevented me from hurting this greasy-haired excuse of a human being.  

That was enough.  I went home and told my mom I could not stay here.  Two weeks later, I was gone.  I lived in Asia for the next 14 years.

In 1976 I was living in Manila.  Americans living there celebrated on July 4, but not in a big way.  I missed the hometown celebrations of my youth, particularly now living in a country ruled by an authoritarian strongman.  A friend called.  It was the 200th anniversary of the signing.  He was a member of the Golden Knights, the elite skydiving team of the U.S. Army.  They were going to New York to perform a free-fall exhibition at the Statue of Liberty.  

He wanted me to join him and the guys for beers.  I declined.  I wasn't ready.  It would take a while longer for me to recuperate.  However, I did see him perform on television.  It was a glorious celebration of our nation's independence and the American ideals contained in the Declaration.  

I finally came home in 1982. In hindsight, I am sorry I missed that day and all of the other Independence Day celebrations.  I understand now that Vietnam was an unpopular war.  And I understand why, when all of us came home, there was no parade. 

Our country has changed much since those dark days of 1969.  Our military men and women are supported by our citizens, as shown by the 50,000 fans standing and cheering the Salute to Armed Forces at a recent San Jose Earthquakes game.  It is great to see Veterans being honored, rather than spat on.  

So, after a brief respite, my love affair with America continues.  And once again I am 
proud to say that I live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.  

But we must not forget - on this day - the cost of our independence; we must never forget that freedom isn't free.

Chuck McDougald
Western Region Director for Concerned Veterans for America


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