‘Give me liberty or give me death’

At the conclusion of his impassioned speech for Independence before the Virginia Convention on March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry stated those words which have echoed throughout our history: “ I don’t know what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

Liberty is a very precious commodity. Words can be easily spoken about it. But, over 1.3 million Americans did more – they paid the supreme sacrifice for it. From across the American landscape to the foreign corridors of the world, in the seas and in the air, American warriors have painted the word liberty in capital letters with their blood.

I doubt if Patrick Henry or any of his contemporaries ever thought that once taken,           liberty would be so fiercely defended.

The march up the Japanese home islands began with the American victory in the bloody battle for Iwo Jima on March 26, 1945. At the same time. Allied Forces had crossed the Rhine into Germany. Liberty was on the march; not only would our homeland be secure, but we were also bringing liberty to those people in Europe and the Pacific whose lands we had liberated.

We are not a nation of conquers, but rather, we are liberators. We will shepherd a newly liberated nation as it struggles to regain stability after a period of subjugation. We do not exploit it, but rather help it rebuild. For example, look at Japan or western Germany. American dollars and technical assistance put them on the track to recovery.

We are rapidly approaching that time of the year when we remember and honor those who have sacrificed for our nation. A salute should be reserved for people like Patrick Henry, Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson. These people and others like them fanned the flames of liberty. These men were not combatants. But, their pens were more powerful than a battery of cannons. The Colonial civilians imported here came from generations of a feudal society in Europe. Here, British aristocracy controlled all their movements.

Since coming here to the Colonies, these peasant people have developed new personas. The ability to survive in this wilderness land required the development of greater skills and character than was required in their homeland. Talk of liberty and self-determination began to seem a reality. Firebrands like Patrick Henry and Thomas Paine put spirit into the muscles of the Colonial farmers and woodsmen. The seeds of the American psyche had been sown.

Liberty, independence and freedom are now ingrained in the individual American’s heart and soul as well as our national policy. The fire of Patrick Henry has been carried around the world where the name – American – is now synonymous with Liberty, Freedom and Justice. Quite a legacy, Patrick!

Richard A. Pender is the senior vice commander of North Brunswick American Legion Post 459. He writes the occasional column for Newspaper Media Group. He can be reached at rapender@netzero.net.

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