Oliver North

As is our custom, millions of Americans celebrated Independence Day this year with family, friends and neighbors. Here in Purcellville, there was an old-fashioned parade down Main Street, followed by a barbecue, a church service to pray for our nation -- and fireworks. For many here in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, it was also day five without electricity -- and very hot.

The hardships caused by last week's powerful storms and power outages are real. More than a dozen of our countrymen have died. The oppressive temperatures remind me that nearly halfway around the world, tens of thousands of young Americans are experiencing heat and fireworks of a different kind -- where our country's enemies are trying to kill them.

Afghanistan isn't the only place with a summer "fighting season." It turns out that patriotic young Americans have spent many Independence Days fighting for "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" ever since 56 of our Founding Fathers signed "The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America" in Philadelphia 236 years ago.

Independence Day 1814 saw one of the few American victories in the War of 1812, at Fort Erie in Canada. The fort was returned to the British in November that year, shortly before the end of the war.

On Independence Day 1863, Americans learned that more than 50,000 of our countrymen had been killed and wounded in the previous three days of battle at Gettysburg. By nightfall of July 4, Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia were retreating south in the Shenandoah Valley, and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was accepting the surrender of Confederate troops at Vicksburg.

On July 4, 1917, the first wave of American "doughboys" were "moving to the sound of the guns," having arrived in France a day earlier. By the time World War I ended in November 1918, more than 115,000 Americans were dead.

During World War II, the time around the Fourth of July was pivotal to Allied victory in both Europe and the Pacific. For the American troops who landed at Normandy less than a month earlier, Independence Day 1944 was marked by furious fighting in the hedgerows. The next year, Independence Day in the Pacific was celebrated with the liberation of Okinawa -- and massive air raids by American B-29s on the Japanese home islands.

July 4, 1950, was anything but a celebration for U.S. troops hastily dispatched to Korea to help repel North Korean invaders. In a desperate "delaying action," the ill-prepared Americans incurred staggering losses as they fell back on what came to be called the Pusan Perimeter.

Oliver North

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.