As a former United States Military History teacher here at Vantage, I can tell you that America's war for independence (AKA the Revolutionary War) was one of my favorite subjects to teach. Even though my students had undoubtedly learned about many facets of the war from the excellent teachers at their home-schools, it always seemed to be one of their favorites, as well (test scores and detailed discussions would always prove that).
First, we'd study the build-up to the war with aspects like the "Intolerable Acts", the "Stamp Act", and all other forms of "taxation without representation" from King George III. Then, we'd talk in-depth about the Declaration of Independence. Finally, we'd get to the five-plus years of brutal fighting (not to mention cold winters in places like Valley Forge with very little to eat and a minimal supply of clothing and shoes).
Despite all of the interest in the hard-fought battles and technological advancements of the war that led us to the ultimate underdog story where a group of inexperienced "rebels" secured freedom from the most powerful (and tested) military in the world at the time; I always thought the most enjoyable discussions came from pieces of the Declaration of Independence. Of course, all of my students were familiar with the Declaration and what it meant in the history of our country. However, very few had ever really analyzed all of the words and their meaning up to that point in their educational careers.
We talked about how Thomas Jefferson (who was one of five men asked to draft a declaration, and the man whose submission became the model for the final document we all know today) seemed to repeat certain parts about how We, people from every "colony" within the United States of America, stand firmly together. Many students were enthralled to learn about some of our other complaints against the King. For example, the quartering practices which forced families to share whatever they had (including their homes) with British soldiers. accusations of an unfair legal system, and cutting off trade for many American businesses with the rest of the world. Students were also quick to point out how Jefferson mentioned several times throughout the document that the people of the United States had tried to solve things peacefully, but had seemingly been rebuffed each time (which a lot of students successfully compared to diplomatic relations of today). They realized very few wars have ever been started without trying to come to a peaceful conclusion first (which is exactly how it should be).
The most intriguing piece of the Declaration, however, would always come about when we'd study the very last line of the document. It reads "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor." In simplest terms, that line basically states that all who were on board with this newly signed "Declaration of Independence" were pledging absolutely everything they had for Freedom. They knew that if they were defeated, they not only stood to lose their lives and every cent they'd ever made (which would have been a LOT for most of the signers); but their family names would be tarnished forever. That is a huge gamble and commitment to a country that was, at the time, just an idea. But they still signed that Declaration. Soon after, many more men, women, and families would join in for a cause that we're still enjoying today (over 240 years later).
This brings me to my final point about our Independence Day and being able to enjoy it with the ones we love. There is another group of people who need to be thanked for always being willing to put personal beliefs and desires aside in order for our American idea of Freedom to be realized. The men and women who have served, or are currently serving in the United States Military (with many Vantage graduates, staff, former staff, as well as family members of Vantage students, staff, and alumni included) have made the same courageous commitment those 56 signers of the Declaration made 241 years ago. They have pledged their lives and their fortunes so that the rest of us could also enjoy this Independence our country was built on. The only difference is, win or lose, their names will always be honored!
With that in mind, I'd like to express my sincere Thanks to all U.S. Military Veterans and Active Duty service members, and encourage you to find a way to do the same (not just on the 4th, but every time you get a chance). To all Vantage alumni who have served or are currently serving, Thank You for representing yourself, your community, your school, and your country with pride. Thank You for helping to keep our country the wonderful place it is. Have a great and safe 4th of July everyone!