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You Earned My Independence Day
July 04, 2003

I wrote this open letter to all the soldiers I know, past and present and for all the soldiers I probably will never know- my appreciation and respect for your service has no words, but I tried anyway.

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I sit here typing, while my children are shifting from foot to foot begging for darkness to fall. They want to throw some loud things down on the ground with a bang, see huge light displays in the sky and wave their sparklers around. Seldom besides Christmas have they ever requested night time to happen any sooner than necessary. I laugh a little. To them THIS is what Independence Day is- fireworks and a lot of "oohs and ahs"..... But seeing them smile and giggle reminds me further of what it actually means to me. These giggling reminders are what have moved me to write this letter of thanks to you today.

It is because of you and the men and women you served with that my children are safe. It is because of men and women just like you that I have the freedom to wave a sparkler around and have reason to be thankful for the independence that no others in the world share. In America I am asked to vote my opinion on matters that are significant. Only in a country like this would I be given the opportunity to prove I can do something others might not have even thought possible in their own lives. In American I am innocent until I am proven guilty- not guilty merely because I may be accused of something.

Where else but America would someone likely stand up for someone else who needs a little help? Someone stood up for me once and I repay the favor every chance I am given. It is because of men and women like you that the rockets that my children want me to light make a few sparks and a loud noise and everyone giggles-meant to celebrate the freedom in our lives. They are not the rockets that maim and destroy, taking the very life from the children who touch them. How many places in the world have you- our soldiers been- that the children have no dreams or hopes, except to find food and shelter and to live another day?

How did I ever earn such fortune I wonder to myself. The answer is of course, that I didn't earn any of it. People like you and my grandfathers during World War II and Gene, Walt, Buzz, Wayne, Bart and Jim all veterans of the Vietnam War- all men I am so honored and lucky to have met- earned this right for me. How can I ever repay you? I am not sure I can. What have I done to show myself worthy of gifts you have given me? I just don't know. I mean to live a good life and to never forget that I was given an opportunity that so many others have not. I will probably never be a soldier, never sleep in a trench, never be truly afraid or truly alone, all of the things you have been for me. But I will remember that you did those things for me.

I will always honor and fight for those men and women whose names are written on that granite wall, or who cannot fight for themselves anymore. I will always remember Bennie Lee Dexter whose name I wear on a band on my wrist. I will always stand up for what I think is right and for those who cannot protect themselves. I will not be silent when there is something to say, because surely the cost to me is not as great as what I would pay by being silent or turning the other cheek. Your sacrifices will never be for nothing. I will always remember you. I will always respect you and always, to my last day on the soil you have fought for- be grateful for my Independence Day.

Thank you,

Joni Bour
Copyright 2003

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