July 4, 1776, was the date in history our country gained its independence from our taxing mother country England. Our pride in our Declaration of Independence kept us weathering the attacks of the Red Coats at Valley Forge and Fort Sumter. We have always risen to the occasion when called to defend, and when we overcame our adversary we prayed peace would be permanent.
The Bible tells us there will be wars and rumors of wars as long as there are men on the earth. We have not been defeated in a major war for more than 200 years. One reason is in our Pledge of Allegiance, which says we are "one nation under God ... with liberty and justice for all."
We have defended our heritage through many conflicts and wars, including two world wars. Our victory in World War I brought jubilation to our cities and towns, but internal problems put our country into a great depression. We were unprepared to enter World War II when Japan bombed and sank the main strength of our naval fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
A day later, our president declared war on Japan and soon after declared war on Germany, whose submarines were torpedoing our merchant and Navy ships. In answer to this crisis, our young generation left colleges, jobs, farms and high schools to volunteer for the military in all branches of the service to defend our country against aggressors bent on destroying our heritage and the truths we stand for.
Our military demanded the best from the men who cleared the beaches of mines for our landings and invasions, from the men who flew bomber missions through flak that would determine their fate, from the sailors who braved the guns of ships and torpedoes of submarines and from the troops who took beachheads facing the hail of bullets and exploding shells.
The most beautiful sight our ground troops beheld was the sky blackened with great numbers of bombers on their way to destroy the enemy before them.
Two of those bombers -- a B-17 and B-24 -- will be here in Kenai for us to observe and tour. For the now older generation of military personnel, those bombers will bring back memories of putting it all on the line to keep our independence and maintain our heritage.
Rows of crosses in foreign lands mark the graves of many of our World War II heroes who live in their families' memories. After we dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in an act of humanitarianism that saved millions of lives in planned invasions, World War II ended with the formal recording of Japan's unconditional surrender.
With the pride of victory, our World War II heroes came home to a hero's welcome. Most took their discharge from the military and melted into the fabric of the heritage they defended. Many went back to their jobs; many went to school; and many started businesses.
Now, 60 years later, we witness God calling our World War II veterans to His kingdom at a rate of 1,000 per day. Finally, a grateful nation has awakened to the need for World War II monument honoring the veterans of that war for the great job they did and the sacrifices they made for all of us who live here in the United States of America. Once the monument is finished, I hope that somewhere on it are the words: "Built in America by Americans."
May our World War II veterans walk the golden streets of heaven.
Herb Stettler is the service officer and chaplain for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Jerry V. Horn Memorial Post 10046 in Soldotna.
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