The temperature in Baghdad on the Fourth of July will exceed 105 degrees. The intense heat of summer turns skin to leather and leaves a scorched hostile landscape in its wake.
In the western and southern regions of Afghanistan a northerly wind, known as The Wind of 120 Days, blows throughout the summer months. The Wind of 120 Days is accompanied by intense heat, drought, sandstorms and winds of more than 100 miles per hour. Sand and dust storms can be a mile high and wide.
The sound of small weapons fire will pierce the air as the sun descends on the horizon; even the sunset is ugly. Dusk is always dangerous, especially when the day's death quota has yet to be reached. Hopefully the mortar fire won't spill dirt on the tent tonight signaling that it is so dangerously close that it's time to don the body armor.
One good night's rest and the promise of tomorrow being one less day in this hellhole is often all our soldiers ask. War exposes the best and worst of the human condition.
Americans will celebrate their freedom in peace with parades, picnics and fireworks on the Fourth of July next week because "rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm," as Churchill stated.
At great personal and financial sacrifice, our new army of citizen soldiers leave their good-paying jobs at hospitals, factories, banks, and local schools because duty calls. They sacrifice their safety and security for our safety and security. So as you watch the night sky explode with fireworks in celebration of the birth of our nation through the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, pause for a second to appreciate the heroism and wisdom of our citizen soldiers.
Viewed through the lens of 200 years of hindsight, the decision in the summer of 1776 to declare independence from England may now seem obvious and even inevitable, but much like the debate today, the rhetoric was heated, the risks were high, and the future of democracy was uncertain. Failure would result in charges of treason and almost certain death.
The Declaration of Independence was written principally by merchants and lawyers who would become our first citizen soldiers. It is a tribute to them that the Declaration's enduring promise continues to drive American dreams and aspirations. Thirteen years later those founding fathers adopted our Constitution and emblazoned, for all to read, the democratic principles that continue to guide our country. Because of those affirmative actions, all Americans are guaranteed the right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and self-government, even if those guarantees are sometimes as imperfect as democracy itself.
As we celebrate that independence and rejoice in our freedom and prosperity, take a moment to reflect on our hard-won status as the most democratic nation in the world. Let us also remember the men and women who are in service of our country in 2010, just as they were in 1776.
What was true at our founding — and what remains true today — is that our citizen soldiers are people of courage, integrity, and honor.
Unfortunately, America does not do enough to care for these modern-day heroes. Without question, America must start to do more for our returning wounded men and women. No citizen soldier should serve his or her country and return in futile search for appropriate care for their wounds. Having sacrificed their safety and security for our safety and security, we owe those that return the security and medical care that they expect — and deserve.
So as we celebrate the Fourth of July in comfort, take the time to remember our citizen soldiers, past and present — and ask whether we are doing right by them.
Michael L. Coyne is associate dean and a professor of law, and Diane Sullivan is an assistant dean and professor of law at the Massachusetts School of Law in Andover.