Fourth of July: Honoring Freedom’s Defenders

Independence Day is a time to celebrate America and those who have fought to preserve freedom and our flag.

A U.S. Air Force airman holds the American flag on top of a C-130H Hercules aircraft upon returning from a deployment to Africa at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Air Reserve Station in Minnesota on June 5, 2023.

By Tom Sileo Published on June 30, 2023

The Fourth of July is a time to celebrate living in the greatest country in the world. It is also day to cherish our freedom—and the brave men and women who preserve it.

Every week on The Stream, I post five inspiring military photos and write a column called “Service and Sacrifice.” I am grateful to my managing editor, Al Perrotta, for helping come up with the column’s name because it perfectly encapsulates what America’s valiant service members and military families do for our country on a daily basis.

Like the millions of veterans who served before them, today’s all-volunteer Armed Forces have fully dedicated themselves to keeping our nation safe, secure and free—no matter the cost. The burdens carried by our nation’s military community are difficult for civilians (including me) to understand and often go unseen. I have been honored and humbled to meet and interview hundreds of these heroes over the past 14 years. They are truly our country’s best.

As we were reminded this past Memorial Day, there are countless soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who gave their tomorrows for our todays. These ultimate sacrifices for our country began during America’s first struggle for freedom, for which the Independence Day holiday is named. Almost 250 years later, those sacrifices continue in this still dangerous post-9/11 world.

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This Fourth of July, there are still thousands of American troops deployed to perilous places like Iraq, Syria, the Horn of Africa and the Korean Peninsula. Each and every day, these deployed service members face threats from terrorist groups like ISIS and rogue regimes like Iran.

We can also add the entire European continent to that list as the Russia-Ukraine War continues. As Russian president Vladimir Putin’s actions become increasingly erratic, it is clear that the 100,000 U.S. troops stationed across Europe are in danger and defending freedom. As we enjoy the Fourth of July, we should also pray for all deployed service members and their worried families here at home.

Fourth of July Re-Enlistment

U.S. Army Spc. Devin Casino, a signal support systems specialist, stands proudly during his reenlistment ceremony on Zagan Training Area in Poland on June 28, 2023.

While searching for Military Photos of the Day, I came across the above image of a soldier named Spc. Devin Casino, who is currently serving in Poland. Despite the fact that he will be spending the Fourth of July away from his family and friends, he recently raised his right hand in front of the American flag and pledged to serve at least another four years while proudly wearing our nation’s uniform. Once his time in Poland is complete, Spc. Casino will head to Alaska.

A few months ago, I finished writing a book called I Have Your Back about a U.S. Army soldier named Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis. During the course of my research, I found several pictures of Staff Sgt. Ollis re-enlisting for six more years during his second combat tour in Afghanistan. He was killed in action six months later. The courage it takes for service members like Staff Sgt. Ollis and Spc. Casino to re-enlist while already deployed should not be overlooked.

Fourth of July Column

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Ollis salutes the American flag after re-enlisting while deployed to Afghanistan’s Ghazni Province in 2013.

God has blessed all of us to live in a country defended by such selfless heroes. From coast to coast, young men and women volunteer every single day to keep America strong and shielded from evil. There is no better day to rejoice in that blessing than the Fourth of July.

When you fly your flag on Independence Day this year, set aside the divisions that exist in our country and simply be grateful to live in the United States of America. As President Ronald Reagan once said: “We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.”


Tom Sileo is a contributing senior editor of The Stream. He is the author of the recently released Be Bold and co-author of Three Wise MenBrothers Forever8 Seconds of Courage and Fire in My Eyes. Follow Tom on Twitter @TSileo and The Stream at @Streamdotorg.

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