Let Freedom Ring

U.S. Coast Guard Cadet 1st Class Jonas Miller unfurls an American flag alongside members and veterans of the armed services, during a Memorial Day celebration on the deck of the USS Intrepid in Manhattan, N.Y., May 30, 2011. Unfurling the flag aboard the deck of the Intrepid has become a tradition during New York City's Fleet Week, a celebration of American and foreign marine services. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Seth Johnson.

In our nation’s capital, between Seventh and Ninth Street on Pennsylvania Avenue, is a building constructed of light gray granite and limestone. Adorned with 72 Corinthian columns and the largest bronze doors in the world, weighing in at six and one-half tons each, is the center-stone of the Federal Triangle; the National Archives. The building was constructed as a safe house for United States federal documents in 1935. The building holds amongst its many documents, the building blocks of freedom and democracy.

In a large room, enclosed in ballistically tested glass and plastic laminate cases, surrounded by a $3 million surveillance system are three documents: the Bill of Rights, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration of Independence is just one of the millions of government-produced documents that are included in the one to three percent of documents that are legally and historically important enough to be securely preserved and monitored at the National Archives. It is also observed by more than one million people each year.

Although you may not be one of the one million people that has had the opportunity to view this historic piece of paper, you are more than likely a person that celebrates the Fourth of July, which stands in honor of everything that the Declaration of Independence represents.

More than 235 years ago, the United Colonies moved toward independence, and the declaration went through three stages of life. The first stage was the original document written by Thomas Jefferson. The second stage was editing the document, which was done by Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. The final version was submitted and then adopted by the Committee of Five to Congress. After months of revisions, debates and meetings, on the morning of July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia, the declaration was officially adopted and the colonies were declared independent.

Seaman Conrad Weeden folds the American flag as U.S. Coast Guard Escanaba pulls away from San Juan, Puerto Rico, April 4, 2011. Special care should be taken that no part of the flag ever touches the ground. The Flag should be folded into the shape of a tri-cornered hat, emblematic of the hats worn by colonial soldiers during the war for Independence. In the folding, the red and white stripes are wrapped into the blue, as the light of day vanishes into the darkness of night. U. S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephen Lehmann.

“These United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved,” said Richard Henry Lee, delegate to the Continental Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

In 1941, the Fourth of July was made a federal holiday but has been celebrated as the day of Independence for the United States since the 18th century and the American Revolution. It is a day of remembrance as to how the United States separated itself from Great Britain and became free states.

The Declaration of Independence is a sheet of parchment that measures 24 ¼ by 29 ¾ inches. It has traveled to private lodgings, government offices, interior safes and been displayed to the public in several locations. It has been carried on wagons, ships, armored vehicles and by horseback.

The journey of this document, much like that of our nation, has been varied. It has been this countries call to action, our affirmation of freedom and our pledge of equality. Remember this piece of parchment when you are celebrating July Fourth, and remember the sacrifices made to create this free nation and that the journey to uphold the visions of our forefathers continues.

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