Independence Day is a special holiday for all Americans. I am passionate about history. Independence Day makes me think of those who came before us and their contributions to the development of our great nation. It makes me think of the contributions of some of my ancestors. My fifth Grandfather on my Mother’s side, John Flynn was born in Virginia in 1760 of Scotch-Irish descent. He would have been about 16 when the Declaration of Independence was signed by our Founders. As a young man he heeded his infant nation’s call to arms and joined the North Carolina Militia and served in the Revolutionary War. As a reward for his service, John was issued a land grant in what would become Cumberland County Tennessee. John’s Grandson and my third Grandfather, Richard Lafayette Flynn was an abolitionist and conductor on the Underground Railroad. A staunch unionist and an early member of the Republican Party, Richard rejected Tennessee’s secession from the Union at the start of the Civil War. He did not join the Union Army, instead serving as a local scout and fighting the Confederacy through guerrilla war, sabotage and espionage while continuing to run his stop on the Underground Railroad with my third Grandmother, Ezylphia to help slaves, union sympathizers and captured Union soldiers escape north, out of the reach of the Confederacy. His exploits are told in the Annals of Cumberland County stored in the county archives in Crossville Tennessee. Nicknamed Red Fox Flynn during the war, Richard is also commemorated in a state historical marker along a rural road in an area still known as Flynn’s Cove. Richard’s Grandson and my Grandfather, Reid Flynn heeded his nation’s call to arms in the 1940s and joined the 10th Mountain Division, seeing combat in some of the toughest fighting in Italy during World War II. I think about these stories from my family’s past and wonder how I could ever equal their contributions. I tried to enter military service but was rejected after having two knee surgeries by the time I graduated college. Instead I’ve dedicated my life to public service and have worked to make government a better servant of the people. Our nation is defined by more than our wars. But it is through the crucible of those wars that we have forged a nation of freedom and prosperity unprecedented in human history, serving as a beacon of hope to people around the globe. It seems these days it is fashionable in some parts of popular culture to denigrate our nation. Fashions come and go but our Republic remains strong. Most people reject these notions and know who we are as Americans. It is true that America is not perfect and we have dark chapters in our history which must be acknowledged. But the trend of our history is continually moving closer to our highest ideals and founding principles so eloquently stated by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. May the contributions of our generation further this experiment in democracy and make our nation stronger for many future generations. As you enjoy the holiday, take time to remember the sacrifices of those who came before us, and think about the contributions we can make today. Happy Independence Day. May God forever bless the United States of America.
Patrick Cates is a Johnson Lane resident . He is also the Douglas County manager. The opinion above is his and doesn’t represent the views of the county.