God Bless America

Posted: Jul 07, 2004 12:00 AM

God bless America
Caesar Rodney, representative from Delaware, staggered, soaking wet and seriously ill, into the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776. Suffering from facial cancer, Rodney had ridden to the Congress from his home in Delaware in order to ensure that Delaware would indeed vote for independence. As he signed the document, he effectively signed his own death warrant: The best medical care could be found only in England.

  Land that I love

 On Aug. 27, 1776, the Continental Army was in dire straits. Driven from their positions on Long Island, hundreds of militiamen fled for their lives. Lord Stirling, an American general, ordered Maj. Mordecai Gist to lead his Maryland 400 into the fray to cover the American retreat. George Washington watched from a distant hilltop as over 250 of the Marylanders fell. "My God!" he exclaimed. "What brave men must I lose this day!"

  Stand beside her

 Deadlocked and contentious, the Constitutional Convention was going nowhere. Then, on June 28, 1787, Benjamin Franklin took the floor to ask that each morning, prayers be offered. "I have lived, sir, a long time; and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men," Franklin stated. "And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?" Nearly a year later, the United States Constitution would be ratified.

  And guide her

 It had been a year and a half since Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out from St. Louis, Mo. Now, in November 1805, they finally gazed upon the Pacific Ocean. Capt. Clark described the overwhelming experience: "Great joy in camp. We are in view of the ocean, this great Pacific Ocean which we have been so long anxious to see, and the roaring or noise made by the waves breaking on the rocky shores ... may be heard distinctly." Lewis and Clark's journey would become emblematic of the American spirit.

  Through the night

 After overwhelming a weak American defense, the British marched into a largely deserted Washington, D.C., on Aug. 24, 1814. Soldiers proceeded directly to the United States Capitol, which they set ablaze; they then marched to the White House, which they reduced to smoldering ruins.

  With a light from above

 In the midst of the bloodiest and most brutal war in American history, Abraham Lincoln spoke to a broken Congress. His words echoed through the chamber and across the country: "The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. ... We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth." It was December 1862; the last, best hope of earth tottered on the brink.

  From the mountains

 In 1869, three men set out to explore the source of the Yellowstone River. Charles W. Cook, one of the explorers, described the place: "We returned to camp realizing as we had never done before how utterly insignificant are man's mightiest efforts when compared with the fulfillment of Omnipotent will." Yellowstone would become America's first national park.

  To the prairies

 Audie Murphy was no ordinary cowboy. After his release from the United States Army in 1945, the most decorated combat soldier of World War II went to Hollywood, where he roamed the fruited plains, sang and beat bad guys, accruing over $3 million during his 23-year movie career. To Murphy, America could be found "in a Texas rodeo, in a policeman's badge, in the sound of laughing children, in a political rally, in a newspaper ... In all these things, you'll find freedom. And freedom is what America means to the world. And to me."

  To the oceans, white with foam

 One little boy, bobbing in the water on an inner tube, was hoisted to safety by a group of astonished American fishermen. His mother had died during an attempt to reach safety and freedom on U.S. shores. Young Elian Gonzalez was united with relatives in Florida; Fidel Castro demanded Gonzalez's return. Would the young boy be condemned to a life under communist rule?

  God bless America

 Small arms, reaching through holes in brick walls. Mouths, crying for release. And then, for the first time in years, freedom. American Marines standing by, smiling, as imprisoned Iraqi children enjoyed the U.S.-manufactured gift of newfound liberty.

  My home, sweet home.

 The cornerstone to the new Freedom Tower, standing on the site of the World Trade Center, reads: "To honor and remember those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, and as a tribute to the enduring spirit of freedom -- July Fourth, 2004."

  God bless America, my home sweet home.