“What is America to me?
A name, a map, or a flag I see?
A certain word, “democracy”?
What is America to me?
 
The house I live in, 
a plot of earth, a street
The grocer and the butcher, 
and the people that I meet
The children in the playground, 
the faces that I see
All races and religions, 
that’s America to me.
 
The place I work in, 
the worker by my side
The little town or city, where 
my people lived and died,
The “howdy” and the handshake, 
the air of feeling free
And the right to speak my mind 
out, that’s America to me.
 
The things I see about me, 
the big things and the small
The little corner newsstand 
and the houses a mile tall
The wedding in the churchyard, 
the laughter and the tears,
The dreams that’s been growing’ for over two hundred forty-one years
 
The town I live in, the street, 
the house, the room,
The pavement of the city, 
or a garden all in bloom
The church, the school, the clubhouse, and the million lights I see
But especially the people
That’s America to me.” 
(Earl Robinson and Lewis Allen)
 
The Fourth of July, red, white and blue, sparklers, grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, boiled peanuts, chilled watermelon, swimming, and just enjoying the “fruits of freedom.”
When I asked my readers about the Fourth of July and its meaning to them, the term most often utilized was freedom.
Freedom, a two-syllable word that carries a huge meaning. A young man in this nation, no matter your opinion, misguided or not, is dead today, why? He went on a trip to North Korea and tore a poster from a wall and was thrown into prison for 15 years, hard labor, beaten, tortured and in a coma, and today he is dead. 
I think sometimes when folks bemoan all the challenges we have in our republic, they should “catch a glimpse” of what I have written above. 
In the world in which we live today, there are millions of individuals who cannot speak out against their government or its leaders without fear of reprisal, and many times that reprisal is death or imprisonment, not just for the person, but for their family.
In the world in which we live today, there are nations where if you travel from point A to point B you must have permission from a government official.
There are nations in the world today where, if you share your religious beliefs, you can be tortured or executed.
One young man, a student, filled with the folly of youth lost his life for doing trying to take a propaganda poster in North Korea. Remember the student from the United States who was “caned” on public television a few years ago in Singapore. In many nations, to use a good old north Florida term “They don’t play the radio.” Freedom is very much curtailed.
In this nation, many believe we have too much freedom. I am not going to approach that, but I will express this: on the Fourth of July while you are eating chilled watermelon, enjoying your grilled hot dog, and your dip in one of our area’s beautiful rivers or springs, for just a second, give some thought to those who paid a price for all of us to enjoy those freedoms.
That hand full of men who signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, were not perfect, and neither are you, and neither am I. They had enough of England, and they had enough of being taxed without having a voice regarding their taxation.
Each of us has an “ah ha” moment and, sometimes more than one, when we realize what price has been paid for freedom.
Last week, I drove my mother down to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Gainesville. I was in line at the Starbuck’s shop in the lobby for my fourth cup of coffee that morning, too much, but I do love coffee. A young man in a wheelchair behind me with both legs off at the knee was smiling, and we exchanged greetings. I asked him how he was getting along, and he had nothing but positive remarks.
He told me he was glad to be out of the hospital and glad to be WORKING part-time at a local business answering a telephone and greeting folks who came in. He shared with me that he lost both of his legs defending the nation in the Middle East. I thanked him and paid for his refreshments. He said “You didn’t have to do that.” I responded truthfully: “It was a privilege for me to do it. I wish I could do more.” He said: “Pray for our nation.” Think about that one, he didn’t ask me to pray for him, both legs shot off, but for others, for the nation. He told me he was happy he was going to be fitted for some prosthetic limbs, and he was going to work hard to learn to use him. I have no doubt that he will. I won’t put his name in print, but pray for him too. He has a long road ahead of him. He has a wife and young daughter, age 4.
As we celebrate this Fourth of July, my advice, and it’s not worth much, is that we start each day by thanking God for waking you up and for you being able to “sit up and take nourishment,” and then thank Him for our freedom, and spend the day with an appreciative heart and encourage someone along the way. So many of you are “encouragers.” Use that gift, a kind word, a handshake, a small card sent to someone who needs encouragement, a phone call.
Most things worth having are worth a sacrifice. If you can’t make a trip to Washington, D.C., pull up a photo of Arlington National Cemetery on your computer. Take a look at those thousands of headstones and think of the sacrifices made for America’s freedom. If you want to make a trip a little closer home, visit any local VA hospital, you’ll see it there too; or just go to a local cemetery and see the headstones for young men and women who left home to defend this nation but who never came home alive.
From the Eight Mile Still on the Woodpecker Route north of White Springs, wishing you all a day filled with joy, peace, and, above all, lots of love and laughter. Enjoy your summer time and wishing you all a Happy Fourth of July! God Bless you all. God Bless America!

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