As families across the state gather on this Independence Day to observe the founding of our nation’s freedom with family picnics, fireworks, and other special events, may we all remember those who have fought and are still fighting for our freedom. We have much to be proud of in Tennessee regarding our state’s rich heritage in fighting for the precious rights we all enjoy as Americans.
As we look back to our nation’s first struggles in the American Revolution, even before Tennessee became a state, our ancestors had already begun to bravely answer the call of freedom. It started at Kings Mountain, which was one of the most decisive Patriot victories of the Revolutionary War. Tennessee rebels left their homes, marched hundreds of miles over mountainous terrain and destroyed British troops, forcing them into a series of maneuvers that resulted in surrender at Yorktown.
This early example of heroics set the path for Tennesseans, whom time and time again would show that, when their homes and liberties were threatened, volunteers would go forth to meet the threat head-on. For that reason, Tennesseans went to war again, marching off to New Orleans in 1812 to crush another British threat to the South, and making a Tennessee General, Andrew Jackson, the only national hero to emerge from that war. When Tennessee was called upon for 2,800 soldiers in the next major U.S. confrontation with Mexico in 1848, an overwhelming 30,000 came forward, and hence forth, Tennessee has been known as the Volunteer State.
In 1861, the American Union was torn with the War Between the States. Again, Tennessee’s sons became leaders for both sides of the struggle. Our homeland became a major battle ground of the war that followed, and not one of Tennessee’s citizens was left untouched. When a united America once again called upon Tennessee during the war with Spain in the late 1800’s, the sons of the Volunteer state rose to the occasion filling the ranks of service from Cuba to the Philippines.
As the 20th century dawned, Tennesseans responded to freedom’s call in the first and second World Wars. Likewise, many young Tennesseans fought bravely in the jungles of Vietnam. The men and women who fought in these wars, like those who are stationed overseas today, are not just American heroes, but heroes to many nations. In fact, it was a Tennessee artillery battalion that was among the first to reach the Euphrates River in Iraq during the Gulf War and the first flag to be raised over liberated Kuwait City, was the flag of Tennessee.
The volunteer spirit is as alive today and God preserve us that we must continue to strive to keep it so. We must support them — as Tennesseans need, and should be willing, to give our time, resources, and when called upon, our very lives.
I am so proud of our young men and women in service. It is easy to see the character and conviction of these soldiers. They are literally changing our world. Our prayers continue to go out to them for their safe return. Tennesseans serving today are just as much in the forefront of the struggle for freedom as their ancestors were at Kings Mountain, whose victory we celebrate on this Independence Day. As long as America is blessed with such heroes, the efforts of the Founding Fathers will not have been in vain and the fruits of their labors will be preserved for future generations of Tennesseans.
On Independence Day we pause to celebrate our freedom and reflect on the sacrifices made for our great country!