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Archive for the ‘Independence Day’ Category

 

Destroyed_Warsaw,_capital_of_Poland,_January_1945

(Warsaw, Poland, January 1945)

 

World War II reduced much of Western Europe to rubble. Homes, businesses, factories, and much of the infrastructure were damaged or destroyed. How could the region rehabilitate itself? It couldn’t. Even two years after the war ended, very little rebuilding had been accomplished. Many people were living in poverty. Government agencies, in chaos themselves, could offer little if any support.

America came to the rescue, helping to rehabilitate post-war Europe at the cost of $22 billion dollars.   That’s about $182 billion in today’s economy, to assist sixteen nations, including Germany, for six years (1946 to 1952) (1).

Granted, the investment provided a boon to our economy when those nations began to thrive and became strong trade partners with us. National security was undoubtedly enhanced as well.

But a nation such as ours, rich with resources and populated by creative, entrepreneurial people, could surely have survived quite well without their participation. Besides, think what America could have done with $22 billion.

No, greater than economic gain or national security was the importance of doing the right thing and providing humanitarian aid – even to our enemies.

 

Picture of German Children receiving aid from LWR in 1951, taken from Together in Hope book by John Bachman.

German Children receiving aid in 1951, taken from Together in Hope book by John Bachman.

 

“Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos,” said then-Secretary of State, George C. Marshall.

No other nation in history has offered such post-war assistance—and so generously. Now, nearly seventy years later, the foreign aid continues—still totaling billions of dollars every year. And not only does this aid go to our allies or other republics, but to nations of differing political doctrines, all over the globe.

Such generosity is one of our core values in America, contributing to our nation’s greatness. But it is not the only thing.

No other nation on earth offers so much humanitarian aid—much of it by volunteers. Think of the doctors and nurses, teachers and engineers, plus a multitude of non-profit organizations whose sole objective is to relieve suffering around the world and help others lead more productive, satisfying lives.

In 2013 just one agency, the American Red Cross, accomplished the following (among many other achievements).

They:

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  • Assisted millions of people in 24 countries, impacted by disaster.
  • Continued to aid 4.3 million earthquake victims in Haiti to rebuild their lives.
  • Helped vaccinate over 98 million children against measles.
  • Continued to develop disaster preparedness in 32 countries, so communities are not so vulnerable.
  • Helped to reconnect nearly 900 families separated by war or disaster (2).

Is it safe to say that, without America, the world would be a very different place? Our generosity and humanitarianism alone have produced significant results around the globe. But there is still more that sets us apart.

No other nation on earth provides such freedom, opportunity, and protection for its citizens.

In addition, recent immigrants often speak of the wonder and delight they experience upon coming to America. They marvel that: roads are regularly repaired, highway signs are clear and accurate, business practices are generally fair. They’re astonished by the volume and variety of goods available–things that most American take for granted, like shampoo, disposable diapers, and deodorant (3).

And what’s the foundation of all this goodness that has contributed to America’s greatness? It’s the values and principles most Americans still embrace–those laid out in the Bible.

For example:

Our generosity can be traced back to Deuteronomy 15:7-8, Proverbs 21:26, and Matthew 25:34-40.

 

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Our humanitarianism—even to our enemies—is rooted in the teachings of Jesus (Matthew 5:44) and Paul (Romans 12:20).

And our way of life, based on freedom, fairness, and adherence to law brings to mind the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12), Romans 12:9-10, and many other scriptures upholding respectful treatment of all.

Granted, we’re not perfect. Selfishness, greed, and power-grabbing fester among us.  But the world is still a better place for the biblical principles named above which provide America’s foundation–whether folks acknowledge that truth or not.

Praise God for his influence through our founding fathers (many of whom were Christians) and self-sacrificing believers in Jesus throughout our 240-year history. It is on their shoulders we stand to do our part. to advance those attributes that make America great–like no other nation.

 

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What do you think has contributed to America’s greatness?  Celebrate your appreciation for our nation in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. usnews.com
  2. redcross.org
  3. heritage.org

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.wikipedia.org; http://www.lwr.org; http://www.redcross.org; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.azquotes.com.)

 

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“The whole meaning of history is in the proof that

there have lived people before the present time

whom it is important to meet” (1).

 

I greatly enjoy meeting the heroes of history and hope you do, too.

One such hero, a founding father of America, is remembered more for his words than his deeds–words such as:

 

“Give me liberty or give me death.”

 

His name: Patrick Henry, born May 29, 1736. (His birthday is this Sunday.)

 

Imacon Color Scanner

 

But what brought Patrick Henry to that pivotal moment in history and that immortal statement? What influence did he carry afterwards?

A bit of exploration revealed the following:

Patrick Henry’s education and faith began at home, under the guidance of his college-educated father and his namesake-uncle, an Episcopal minister. Uncle Patrick’s teaching, example, and encouragement helped instill in young Patrick the Christian virtues that would impact his entire life.

As Henry grew into manhood, he transitioned from business to law to government. He was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1765.

Soon after, Great Britain established the Stamp Act, which required almost everything printed in the American colonies to be inscribed on specially stamped paper, available only from agents of the British crown–with the payment of a hefty tax.

Henry spoke eloquently against the Stamp Act: “If this be treason, make the most of it,” he challenged. The Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions passed, and those with pro-British leanings did consider the action treasonous.

 

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In 1774, Patrick Henry was elected to the First Continental Congress. Delegates met to determine a course of action for the colonies, in response to Great Britain’s offenses: taxation without representation, searches and seizures without probable cause, confiscation of firearms, and more.

On March 23, 1775, Henry rallied the Second Virginia Convention, calling them to arms against advancing British troops. England was already at war against the colonies, he reasoned. Then Henry concluded with those famous, rousing words:

 

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(“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet

as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?

Forbid it, Almighty God!

I know not what course others may take;

but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”)

 

No doubt such eloquent and impassioned words held the delegates spellbound. But more astounding still? Henry had not prepared a speech for that day; he held no notes in his hands.

Another surprise for most of us: Henry spoke of God throughout that speech, and quoted from the Bible.  In one short paragraph, he used eight scriptural phrases.

 

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Other examples include:

  • “Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace—but there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:14). The war is actually begun! 
  • “The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone” (Eccl. 9:11). 
  • “There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us” (2 Chron. 32:8).

 

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Remember, his speech was delivered with no notes. These verses and many more were imprinted in Henry’s memory.

On many occasions during the war that ensued, he encouraged the beleaguered soldiers to pray for divine intervention, reminding them that:

 

“…the same God whose power divided the Red Sea for the deliverance of Israel,

still reigns in all of his glory, unchanged and unchangeable…” (3).

 

The American Revolution officially began April 19, 1775 at the Battle of Lexington and dragged on for  eight long years.  At first, Henry served in the military, as commander-in-chief of the Virginia militia.  But in 1776, Henry shifted his attention from the military to governmental aspects of the war and the development of a new nation.

In fact, governmental affairs were to be his main focus from that time forward. Henry served five terms as governor of Virginia and as a representative in the state legislature.

Yet it was not his accomplishments that he prized most.

 

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(“Being a Christian…is a character which I prize

far above all this world has or can boast” (4).

 

After Henry’s death, this note was found, containing truth just as appropriate for today as in 1799:

 

“Whether this [the American Revolution] will prove a blessing or a curse

will depend upon the use our people make of the blessings

which a gracious God hath bestowed on us.

If they are wise, they will be great and happy.

If they are of a contrary character, they will be miserable.

Righteousness alone can exalt them as a nation [Proverbs 14:34].

Reader! – whoever thou art, remember this! –

and in thy sphere practice virtue thyself and encourage it in others.

–P. Henry” (5).

 

Patrick Henry certainly practiced Christian virtue himself, and is still encouraging it—in those who will listen.

 

Notes:

(1) Eugene Rosenstock Huessy, Speech and Reality, Argo Books, 1970, p. 167.

(2) The Founders’ Bible, p. 1734

3) http://www.christianhistorysociety.com

(4) www.faithofourfathers.net

(5) The Founders’ Bible, p. 957

 

Sources:

www.christianhistorysociety.com

www.faithofourfathers.net

The Founders’ Bible, Shiloh Road Publishers, 2012

www.patrickhenrycenter.com

www.wallbuilders.com

 

Art credits:  www.wikitree.com; http://www.thinkershirts.com; http://www.patriotpost.us; ce-wiki.wikispaces.com; http://www.azquotes.com http://www.thefederalistpapers.org.)

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“The whole meaning of history is in the proof that there have lived people before the present time whom it is important to meet” (Eugene Rosenstock Huessey, Speech and Reality, p. 167).

The forefathers of our nation are among them…

 

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(January 23, 1737-October 8, 1793)

 

For John Hancock, it was the last straw.

The Stamp Act of 1765 was bad enough, requiring printed materials in America to carry a special stamp, and the obligatory fees sent to England. In the 160-year history of the colonies, Americans had only paid taxes to their colonial governments.

And although the Stamp Act had been repealed, it was replaced with a more detrimental decree: The Declaratory Act of 1766, which proclaimed Britain’s absolute authority over the American colonies.

Then came the Townshend Revenue Acts of 1767, taxing the colonists further.

No wonder they took up the cry, “No taxation without representation.”

Now it was 1768. Customs officials had just confiscated John Hancock’s sloop, Liberty, in the Boston Harbor. They claimed it was being used to transport contraband goods.

And that was the last straw. Hancock had reached the end of his tolerance for sovereign British rule. He and politician, Samuel Adams began orchestrating demonstrations and rallies. They also spread the ideal of liberty to other locales.

Meanwhile, British reinforcements were sent to Boston—an occupation that would last eight years.

 

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In 1770, British soldiers shot into an unarmed crowd, killing five Bostonians and wounding others. The horrific event became known as the Boston Massacre.

For a number of years, that day, March 5, was memorialized in the city. Hancock was asked to speak in 1774. In his speech he said:

“Let us humbly commit our righteous cause to the great Lord of the Universe (Psalm 37:5), who loveth righteousness and hateth iniquity (Hebrews 1:9)…Let us joyfully leave our concerns in the hands of Him Who raiseth up and pulleth down the empires and kingdoms of the world as He pleases (Daniel 2:21).”

Then he quoted Habakkuk 3:17-18, reminding Bostonians that no matter what happened as the conflict continued, or how desperate circumstances might become, “yet we will rejoice in the Lord” (1).

So many scriptures brought together in one brief paragraph give indication of the strong Christian faith John Hancock embraced.

Also in the early 1770s, Hancock, Adams, and several dozen others “hosted” the Boston Tea Party. They dumped 342 chests of tea into the harbor rather than pay import duties to Britain.

 

The Boston Tea Party, 1773 Painting; The Boston Tea Party, 1773 Art Print for sale

 

In 1774, Hancock and Adams were elected to the Provincial Congress at Concord, Massachusetts. John was elected president and presided over the Committee of Safety. He and others organized the minutemen, colonial militia who could be ready in a minute to oppose the British.

April 19, 1775, seven hundred British soldiers were sent to Concord to confiscate military supplies and capture Hancock and Adams. Thanks to the warning of Paul Revere, the two men were able to escape.

At nearby Lexington, British soldiers and minutemen engaged in a skirmish, and the Revolutionary War began with the “shot heard round the world.”

Just four days before, John Hancock had written:

“All confidence must be withheld from the means we use; and reposed only on that GOD who rules in the armies of heaven, and without whose blessing, the best human counsels are but foolishness—and all created power vanity (2)”.

Hancock knew that all their efforts toward freedom were in vain if God was not on their side.

That summer he represented Massachusetts at the Continental Congress held in Philadelphia, to discuss ways of restoring harmony with Britain, yet establish rights and liberties for the colonists. Independence wasn’t on the table – yet.

 

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But 1776 brought Thomas Paine’s famous pamphlet, “Common Sense.” American patriotism grew strong, and Congress passed a resolution calling on “the aid of God in the moral cause for independence.” They encouraged fasting and prayer throughout the colonies, and “through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness” (3).

That’s how deep and wide the Christian faith permeated American society.

Of course, the most important resolution of the Continental Congress, under Hancock’s presidency, was the Declaration of Independence, severing all ties to Britain. And, as most U.S. history students know, he was the first to sign in his distinctive script.

 

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For almost two and a half years, Hancock tirelessly presided over the Congress, as the war escalated, and the delegates hammered out the first constitution, the Articles of Confederation.

At least four times they had to flee for their lives to other colonies in order to continue their work. In addition, long debates and political rifts took their toll on the delegates, including John Hancock. He also suffered from gout.

When Congress had completed the Articles, Hancock resigned the presidency, but continued public service in Massachusetts, assisting in the formation of the state constitution (4). He and other delegates included this requirement:

“Any person chosen governor, lieutenant governor, counselor, senator, or representative…shall…make and subscribe the following declaration: ‘I, ______________, do declare that I believe the Christian religion and have a firm persuasion of its truth” (5).

I wonder what our institutions of government would look like today if that affirmation were still required.

John Hancock, first governor of Massachusetts, became one of the first to sign that statement of faith. He served eleven years before his death in 1793, at age fifty-five.

Revisionists want to remove from the historical record any mention of God, Jesus, Christianity, and the Bible. But Hancock and many other founding fathers knew: “Without God’s blessing, the best human counsels are but foolishness.”

We had better know that, too.

 

Citations and Notes:

  1. The Founders’ Bible, p. 1374
  2. faithofourfathers.net
  3. johnhancock.org
  4. The only constitution in the world still in use today and older than the U. S. Constitution
  5. The Founders’ Bible, p. 2097

Sources:

  1. acheritagegroup.org
  2. biography.com
  3. The Founders’ Bible
  4. faithofourfathers.net
  5. johnhancock.org
  6. ushistory.org

Art & photo credits:  www.wikipedia.org; http://www.allthingsliberty.com; http://www.paintingandframe.com; http://www.history.com; http://www.plannersweb.com.

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picnic-table

During my growing up years, the Fourth of July was usually celebrated at an extended-family picnic, attended by aunts, uncles, and lots of cousins. At least two tables were required for the hamburgers, hot dogs, numerous side dishes, homemade lemonade, watermelon, and Grandma’s pies and cookies.

But the highlight of the celebration didn’t happen until dark: sparklers and fireworks. What a delightful wonder to stare into a sizzling starburst and spin circles and figure-eights with a thread of light.

And then, after much painful waiting, the real show would begin. Fireworks.

A soft phoom alerted us to each explosion of color.

My favorite was a yellow-orange burst that would remain brilliant for several moments, as each spark gracefully drifted downward. The effect resembled a mammoth weeping willow tree, lit from within.

Independence Day celebrations on The Mall in Washington on July 4, 2008.

I wonder, how did the custom of fireworks become a tradition for Independence Day?

Here is what I discovered.

It began with founding father, John Adams, in a letter to his wife, on July 3, 1776. Just the day before, fifty-six patriots had signed the Declaration of Independence. Mr. Adams thought that would be the day the new nation would celebrate. Instead, it would be the day after, July 4, when the final wording of the Declaration was approved.

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Following, in bold print, is an excerpt of Mr. Adams’ letter to Abigail. The inserted comments are my own thoughts.

“The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.”

John Adams correctly predicted the importance of this event to Americans. The first great anniversary festivals occurred the next year in Philadelphia and Boston. Such commemoration caught on quickly throughout the thirteen colonies.

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“It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.” 

Now that would be a worthy addition to our Fourth of July gatherings. Solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty might include prayers of thanksgiving and praise for our great nation, then asking God for his continued guidance and blessing upon America.

“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.”

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That word, solemnized, caught my attention. It means, “to celebrate or observe with formal ceremonies or rites.” Although Mr. Adams and other patriots would no doubt approve of family picnics and parties with friends, our choices of activities ought to be respectful of the Declaration and the lives lost to achieve and uphold our independence.

“You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost to maintain this Declaration and support and defend these States.”

Again, John Adams’ words were prophetic. Eight long years of toil, from 1775 to 1783, were required for the colonists to achieve freedom from Britain. The blood of 25,000 patriots paid for that freedom and the treasure of 400 million dollars.

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Of those who signed the Declaration, nine died in the conflict, five were captured and treated brutally, several lost family members, twelve had their homes completely burned, and seventeen lost everything they owned.

“Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory.”

Even with his vision of ravishing light and glory, Mr. Adams could not have imagined the growth of prosperity in America. No country on earth has enjoyed such rich and varied resources, provided such strong influence in the world, and so generously offered aid across the globe when needed.

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Then again, perhaps God did give Mr. Adams a glimpse into the future, when he wrote: 

“I can see that the end is worth more than all the means; that posterity will triumph in that day’s transaction, even though we [may regret] it, which I trust in God we shall not.”

Posterity has indeed triumphed, and John Adams was blessed to witness firsthand the beginnings of that triumph, as the thirteen colonies became a nation.  He helped negotiate the Peace of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War. He served as vice-president under Washington, and became the second U. S. president in 1796.  Before his death on July 4, 1824, he witnessed the Louisiana Purchase and the annexation of eleven more states.

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  John Adams recognized that the principles which resulted in such triumph would never change:

“The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow what I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”*

 Indeed. A republic such as ours cannot survive unless its citizens live by certain principles, including integrity, compassion, and personal responsibility. Such Christian principles cannot be legislated; they must come from the heart.

The ravishing light and glory John Adams declared for our nation can be achieved and maintained no other way.

God help us.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    *     *

*This last excerpt from a letter to Thomas Jefferson, June 28, 1813.

(Art & photo credits: http://www.dianacarbonell.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.ushistory.org; http://www.mentalfloss.com; http://www.theepochtimes.com; http://www.groundreport.com; http://www.discovernewengland.org; http://www.wikipedia.org.)

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Church bells rang all across Philadelphia. Men on horseback rode far and wide to spread the news. People shouted and fired their guns. It was July 4, 1776. The Declaration of Independence had been approved by the Second Continental Congress.

In spite of the celebratory noise, those fifty-six delegates gathered in the Pennsylvania State House knew the gravity of their actions. By signing the declaration (which would not happen until August 2) they were guilty of treason against the British crown–punishable by hanging.

Congress Voting Independence, a depiction of t...

Congress Voting Independence, a depiction of the Second Continental Congress voting on the United States Declaration of Independence. Oil on canvas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In fact, Ben Franklin told the delegates that day, “Indeed we must all hang together, otherwise we shall most assuredly hang separately.”

On what confidence were they willing to risk their lives against an enemy as strong as England? After all, the colonies were loosely organized, just a far-spread collection of farmers for the most part. They had no army or navy trained and ready to launch into battle. Small-town militias were all the Congress had to work with. And because the British were seizing guns and ammunition, the militias were disadvantaged further.

By contrast, the powerful British empire had a trained army and at least thirty ships ready for battle as the war began.

Perhaps those fifty-six delegates were reflecting on a providential event of September 7, 1774.  On that day, Rev. Jacob Duche had been invited to the First Continental Congress to begin the day’s proceedings with prayer. But Rev. Duche also read the psalm designated for September 7, from the Book of Common Prayer. The passage was Psalm 35.

English: Painting: The Rev Jacob Duche offers ...

Now it’s important to know that Congress had just been told Boston was under attack by the British. Depressing news to be sure. Here is an excerpt of what they heard:

“Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Arise and come to my aid.

“May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay. Since they hid their net for me without cause…may the net they hid entangle them.

“You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them…O Lord, how long will you look on? Rescue my life from their ravages, my life from these lions” ((Psalm 35:1-17).

John Adams is the one who called the day’s reading “providential.” The whole psalm spoke directly to their situation.

Yet, even with such promises still in their minds, those delegates knew full well that war would mean deprivation for everyone, suffering for most, and death for many. They were potentially signing a death warrant for themselves and/or their sons. What would cause such willingness to sacrifice themselves?

John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail:

“I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration…I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph in the day’s transaction.”

The end is worth the means: that posterity will triumph. They sacrificed so very much so that we, their posterity, might enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured, imprisoned, and treated brutally. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his 13 children. Two wives were brutally treated. All of the delegates were, at one time or another, the victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned.

Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word.

Such conviction, strength of character, courage, and perseverance; such willingness to suffer is difficult to fathom.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Heavenly Father, it pains us to realize that thousands upon thousands have died for the cause of liberty. May we always remember: our freedoms have been purchased for us at a Very. High. Price. May we never take those freedoms for granted, or, worse yet, abuse them.

It also pains us to realize that your Son, Jesus, had to die, to liberate us from death. May our lives be characterized by heartfelt gratitude, motivating us to live for you and not for our own selfish desires.

Strengthen us, Lord, to please you and honor our dead heroes. You deserve our obedience; they deserve to be respectfully remembered. Always.

And last, we pray for those who are now serving in the military, protecting our freedoms today. Watch over them and bless them, we pray.  Amen.

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