When most Americans think of the 4th of July, they think of hot dogs, fireworks, patriotic songs and going to the lake or beach. Few of us, probably, take time to reflect on the sacrifics made over two centuries ago that have enabled us to live our widely-envied “American Way of Life”.The United States of America began as thirteen different English colonies established along the eastern seaboard during the 17th & early 18th centuries. Gradually many of the colonists began to think of themselves more as Americans and less as Englishmen, a feeling that was spurred on by the decision of the British Parliament in the 1760s to tax the colonies for the expenses associated with keeping them in the British Empire. Since the colonists had no elected representatives in the British Parliament, they felt that these new taxes were “taxation without representation” and therefore, illegal. From this point, the situation escalated quickly as Patriot groups formed to discuss the possibilities, and by the early 1770s, the Patriots had their own Provincial Congresses in each of the thirteen colonies, effectively replacing the representatives of the British government. In 1775, the Second Continental Congress was established, the Continental Army was organized, and fighting broke out when the British responded by sending combat troops to the colonies. Finally, on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed, establishing the United States of America. The fierce determination of the Patriots to prevail, plus the important military and political support of the French, the Spanish & the Dutch, insured an American victory, and in 1783, the signing of the Treaty of Paris ended the American War of Independence and guaranteed the sovereignty of the United States of America. So, on this 4th of July, while eating hot dogs, watching fireworks and enjoying your family & friends, take a moment to give thanks for the bravery and determination of our forefathers to live free from tyranny, and also, say a prayer for the modern-day Patriots who serve in America’s Armed Forces around the world to protect our hard-won freedoms. For God & Country!