Editor's Note: This article was originally published on July 2, 2003.
Birthdays are special, and some are more special than others. Since I observed a special birthday — my 80th — last Saturday I know that I feel "special" since there were stacks of birthday cards from all over the United States, and even from Hawaii, and there were gifts of fruit, fresh vegetables, jelly, jam, preserves, pickles, candy, flowers from the florist, two birthday cakes that my daughter baked, balloons, books, dish towels, pot holders, money and so many sweet letters, visits and phone calls. Just a simple "thank you" seems inadequate,but it comes from my heart.
A Country's Birth
This Friday is another special birthday. It is the 227th anniversary of our independence from England, so it really is the birthday of our country.
Thomas Jefferson was the main author of the Declaration of Independence. He was proud of that fact and that was one of the things he specified to be listed on his tombstone.
In 1781 our forefathers drew up the Articles of Confederation, and in 1787 they drew up the Constitution. It was ratified by nine states of the 13. We had a new name — The United States of America.
I asked my son which of our founding fathers was responsible for designing our form of government. He felt that Madison and Hamilton had the most influence on drawing up the Constitution. I know that there are things that may need changing in our form of government, things that may need improving, but in spite of these things our form of government is the best on earth. Don't you agree?
A Feeling of Freedom
Perhaps we do not always like those in places of leadership. Nothing is always perfect. Jesus selected 12 to be in his inner circle, to help him carry out His earthly ministry, and one of them was Judas Iscariot.
But we have the privilege of voting for whomever we want to, and the ballot box is just another of the freedoms that we enjoy.
When I see the flag pass by, or when I pass the flag in downtown Minden, I feel a sense of pride and patriotism.
"One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all" may be just a line from the pledge to the flag, but it is what the flag represents.
You cannot separate the flag from all those in our country's past who helped our nation be the world leader that it is today.
Those Who Served
So many of our friends, relatives and even those that we do not know have served under that flag in many branches of service in so many wars.
Minden has had its share of heroes, men who have earned the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Medal of Honor, and then there are the hundreds of others who never received an individual honor but served with honor and valor in many battles across the world.
In my circle of acquaintances I remember those who "flew the Hump in the Himalayas," one who served with Merrill's Maurauders and returned as one of 12 who lived with that group, this man was a classmate of mine, Ray Maddry.
I remember those who served at the Battle of the Bulge, and one who served above and beyond the call of duty and received the Bronze Star for his bravery — George Turner.
Others who received the Bronze Star would be George's brother, Killen Turner, as well as Richard Garrison, Bill Ichter and many others.
And there have been several Silver Star winners — George Calvit for his outstanding bravery even though he was severely wounded in the battle for Iwo Jima.
My husband received no individual honors but his unit was awarded several honors because of some of the battles across North Africa, Sicily and Italy. He served four years and four months, receiving his discharge on July 4, 1945.
It is so touching to see the flags on the graves that are placed there on a couple of occasions each year. We do not realize how much we owe to so many until we notice just how many flags mark the graves of men who fought in all the wars for us.
There is a section in the old Minden cemetery that is the area where Confederate soldiers are buried. There are no individual markers, but there is an obelisk that tells that this is the area of Confederate soldiers.
I have stood in many national cemeteries across the United States. When I visited the battlefield at Chalmette where the victims of the Battle of New Orleans are buried, I think "what a waste of men and boys."
The battle was fought after the war was over, but lack of communication did not inform either side of that fact.
The Cemetery at Arlington, Virginia is awe inspiring. It was such a somber time as I stood at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier and watched the changing of the guard. I always think that each of the men who died was somebody's son, somebody's husband or brother, or even some child's father.
Remember the Price
This July 4th we honor our nation's birthday, but this nation has been bought with a price and we must never forget those who paid that price.
In my bedroom closet, high on a shelf is a triangular folded flag. It was presented to me on the occasion of my husband's funeral. He served under that flag; he revered what it stood for and so do I.
When I remember how long our form of government has stood, I thank God for the men who had the vision and the ability to design an almost perfect form of government.
To me that flag represents America — the men who helped plan our future, and our democratic form of government, the men who have fought and some have given their lives for what we believe.
If you have a loved one or a friend that received an indivisual honor or medal during any war, I would like for you to tell me the name and I will add it to my own memories. Just call me and in the future I will remember those who have meant so much to our freedom
God bless America!
Juanita Agan submitted a weekly column to the Press-Herald for more than 15 years until her death in 2008. She was a resident of Minden since 1935. The Press-Herald is republishing select articles from Mrs. Agan's Cameos column every Wednesday.