A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand
FRANKFORT – For 237 years now, our nation has celebrated its independence on July 4th. If John Adams had had his way, however, the fireworks and parades happening on Thursday this week would occur on Tuesday instead.
That’s because he thought July 2, 1776 – when the Second Continental Congress actually voted to break away from Great Britain – would become “the most memorable epoch in the history of America,” rather than two days later, when the Declaration of Independence was formally adopted.
Although his prediction proved wrong, it certainly didn’t diminish the major role he played in our country’s early history. He led the push to have Thomas Jefferson be the chief author of the Declaration of Independence, and with George Washington directing the Continental Army by this point, Adams and Jefferson were the only ones to sign it who would later go on to be President.
They later became political adversaries, but their friendship survived as the years went by, and both died just hours apart on the same day: July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the very document they helped to create.
Kentucky, of course, was not one of the 13 original colonies, but as part of Virginia, it did play a role in our country’s early years. To begin with, there were several skirmishes during the Revolutionary War, including one of the last: The Battle of Blue Licks in Robertson County.
While that fighting occurred after the war was largely over, it was still a devastating blow for our early settlers. Among those killed were Colonels John Todd and Stephen Trigg – the namesakes of two of Kentucky’s counties – and Daniel Boone’s son Israel.
As for the fourth of July itself, some memorable actions have taken place on that date across the state over the years. What is believed to be the holiday’s first celebration west of the Allegheny Mountains took place in Central Kentucky in 1794, for example, and in 1862, the Battle of Tebbs’ Bend was fought in what is now Taylor County, which saw heavily outnumbered Union soldiers turn back attacks led by Confederate Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan.
In 1924, that date was also the formal dedication of the Kentucky African American Civil War Veterans’ Monument in Frankfort, which at the time was only the fourth memorial in the country memorializing their service.
While each fourth of July is set aside as a celebration of freedom, it is also a time to remember all who have sacrificed their time, talents and even their lives and limbs to make that possible.
Kentucky has always given more than her fair share, and over the last dozen years, our contributions have grown substantially.
Last summer, a study authorized by the Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs underscored just how much the commonwealth provides when it comes to protecting our country.
Military expenditures here have jumped dramatically over the last decade, from $3.2 billion to $15.3 billion. That includes a tripling of defense contract work awarded to private businesses, 95 percent of which are located in just five counties.
That same year, Kentucky had 58,000 active-duty and civilian employees based at our military installations and nearly 14,000 others serving in the National Guard or the Reserves; we also had the fourth-highest number of active-duty Army personnel among the states. In addition, there were 27,000 military retirees living in Kentucky that year, and their retirement pay exceeded a half-billion dollars. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the report found that half of these retirees lived in just 40 of Kentucky’s 800 zip codes.
Overall, the military is more than twice the size of our next largest industry that could be located elsewhere, a fact that unfortunately became all too apparent last week when we learned that Fort Knox would eventually lose more than 40 percent of its active-duty soldiers as part of military cutbacks.
It would be difficult to put a price on the countless contributions we see from the military here in Kentucky, and it would be impossible to calculate the value we as a nation have received from the millions of men and women who have served our nation, from the Founding Fathers to those wearing the uniform today.
As we celebrate our country’s symbolic birthday, I encourage you to recall their actions as well. Without them, July 4th – and every other day of the year – would be greatly diminished.