Written by: Eliza Spencer, IVMF marketing and communications intern
Last year on the 4th of July I was home in Vermont, relaxing after my first year of grad school. I didn’t celebrate in any special way; my parents and I watched the fireworks on a boat docked in Lake Champlain, had drinks and ate cake. Isn’t that how all the best birthdays are celebrated, with food, drinks and wishes for many happy returns? Looking back on it now, I don’t remember talking about our country’s fight for independence or the pride we feel in being American – I believe the conversation was about post-MBA job prospects and the retelling of old family stories. So thinking about it, do we as citizens in the land of the free truly care why there is a holiday in July or do we look at it only as another excuse to eat, drink and be merry?
As I think about Independence Day, and how we became a country, I also think about how we have remained free and continued to grow throughout these 237 years. Here at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), we like to say that we are “in service to those who have served” – and while the institute primarily serves veterans, military service members and their families, I think we can extend that sentiment to an even larger population of people who serve in a non-military capacity. America wouldn’t be America without the sacrifices of the military, but it also wouldn’t be the place we fought so hard to secure without the hard work and sacrifice of teachers, civil servants, nonprofit volunteers and community activists, to name a few.
Some may argue that serving the nation in this way isn’t comparable to military service, but we can look at the sacrifices of teachers in national tragedies such as Sandy Hook, at community activists working with limited budgets while ensuring civil liberties and freedoms, and volunteers helping storm victims throughout the country and we realize that service to the nation – and to the next generation of Americans – comes in many different forms. While not everyone can physically, mentally or emotionally serve in the military, we can all enlist by working to support and build our communities, and by doing so we are supporting the freedom we were born with and ensuring its continuation. America wasn’t created in a day, and we are still shaping our future in communities across the country.
So this Independence Day, while we are watching parades, fireworks and celebrating America’s birthday, let’s also take some time to remember and thank those who have made this holiday possible, both military and civilian. After all, even our Founding Fathers wanted to make sure we celebrated Independence Day. As John Adams wrote to his wife, “It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.” I know that this year, mixed in with old stories and talks about post-school employment, I will soak up the beauty of the fireworks and remember how lucky I am to be a citizen of the United States of America – home of the free, brave and those who serve.
Eliza Spencer is a marketing and communications intern with the IVMF and recently graduated with an MBA from the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University. She is now pursuing an MPA at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.