Michel: Declaration of Independence signers risked their lives

Published 12:04 am Saturday, July 2, 2016

It was 240 years ago when 56 men gathered together to sign the Declaration of Independence.

The youngest among them was only 26 years old and the oldest, Ben Franklin, was 70. The majority were prosperous, wealthy and secure men who lacked nothing except that which they were willing to risk their lives — their freedom.

They reviewed the document that listed their grievances against the king, proclaimed their freedom from Great Britain and outlined the universal principles that would shape the character and direction of the emerging new nation.

Their names were signed in ink, but it may have well been with their own blood, for if the cause failed, each could have been found guilty of treason and hung.

As Thomas Jefferson said, “We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”

They risked it all for liberty. Signing was an act of heroism matched on the battlefield. Five of the signers were captured while fighting in the war.

Like hundreds of others at that time, many of the signers saw their homes and property occupied, ransacked and vandalized. One signer watched as his two sons were captured and another witnessed his son’s death on the battlefield.

These experiences were shared by countless other brave men.

The freedom that was won has had to be maintained over the years. In any community, you will find veterans who have sacrificed their time, strength and sometimes their health in service to our country. Others have sacrificed their lives.

Concerning the Fourth of July, John Adams wrote, “I believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival … it ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other …”

I know that many cities will unite this year to fulfill his wishes.

Whenever I witness a fireworks show, my favorite are the ones that go up unnoticed, then suddenly burst into light against the dark sky. I’d like to think that our prayers are like that.

They may be solitary and silent, but as they reach heaven, I believe God showers us with His wisdom, strength, direction and protection.

On Independence Day, and every day, may we pause a moment to remember and pray for the men and women who serve our country.

May God bless America.

Ronny Michel may be reached at rmichel@rtconline.com.