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HUCKABY: Patriots gave us the freedom we cherish

Monday is Patriots' Day. On April 19, 1775, a group of farmers, merchants and other private citizens stood up to the army of King George III of England because, in their opinions, the British Crown and the British Parliament were dipping in their business. These American colonists, you see, valued liberty and freedom far more than they valued the security that paying homage to a king would provide.

The Georgia Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, in conjunction with the Georgia Society of the Sons of the American Revolution and an organization called Explore Georgia, have made it their business to promote Patriots' Day across the state this year. I have received a number of entreaties urging me to write about the occasion.

Truth be known, it didn't take a great deal of persuasion because I am a big fan of our founding fathers.

Now I know what you are thinking. The DAR? Isn't that a group of old women who gather once a month to drink tea and live in the past?

That would be a no. Sometimes they have lemonade. And they aren't all old.

I'm just teasing, y'all.

The Daughters of the American Revolution are ladies who can trace their individual ancestries back to specific patriots who served during the Revolution. They are devoted to maintaining the memory of those ancestors and the principals upon which this country was founded. They are also devoted to serving the country in which they live and take part in a wide variety of service projects and are extremely gracious with their time and their money.

I know the local chapters provide generous scholarships each year to young people who have shown a particular aptitude for learning the history of our great nation -- and I have been honored to address various chapters of the DAR on a number of occasions.

But enough background. Let us get down, as they say, to brass tacks.

Georgia has a strong heritage dating back to the Revolution. The Liberty Boys, our colony's version of the Sons of Liberty, met in Savannah in Tondee's Tavern. There were skirmishes fought along the Georgia coast and in the hinterlands above Augusta. Savannah was victim of a major siege and bloody battle. Many patriots are buried in the colonial cemetery in Savannah and many others are honored among her many squares.

Sixty-four Georgia counties are named for patriots, including Gwinnett, Walton and Hall, which happen to be adjacent to one another and happen to have been named in honor of our three signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Newton County is named in honor of Sgt. John Newton who helped William Jasper -- another county namesake -- rescue a party of prisoners being escorted by the British to Savannah. Hart County was named for Nancy Hart, a 6-foot-tall red-haired woman who captured and hanged several of the King's own who had allegedly murdered Col. John Dooly -- one of the heroes of the battle of Kettle Creek. Yes, the south Georgia county is named for him, not Vince.

I could go on and on, but you get the point.

The good ladies of the DAR -- old and young -- and their counterparts are eager for us to remember on April 19 that 235 years ago, a group of Americans were willing to stand up to a tyrant and his mighty army. These people would be willing to sacrifice their lives and their fortunes for ideals and principals. These people believed in independence -- not just political independence but personal independence. It was the creed of these patriots that each American was responsible for his own fortunes and should have the right, unfettered by government, to pursue his fortune and well-being in the way that he thought best.

Eventually these patriots, through Divine Providence -- their words, not mine -- were able to defeat the strongest military force on Earth and establish a new form of government -- one chock full of checks and balances to prevent one person or one group of people from superseding the will of the people and one that guaranteed a series of individual liberties that were spelled out in a Bill of Rights.

And now here we are in 2010, contemplating how best to honor the memory of those patriots who paid such an extreme price for the liberties that we have enjoyed for so long. How best do you suppose we could honor the memory of those great men and women?

Perhaps we could participate in one of the many ceremonies being held around the state. Perhaps we could visit one of the many historical sites along the "Revolutionary Trail" that runs through eastern Georgia. Perhaps we could spend a little time studying the Georgia map and becoming acquainted -- or reacquainted -- with some of our forefathers.

Or maybe -- just maybe -- we can spend a bit of time searching our souls and asking ourselves hard questions about the legacy these patriots gave to us and the direction we are taking the country they created. We might ask ourselves if people like John Hancock and George Washington and Patrick Henry would be pleased with the degree of freedom and personal liberty we posses.

Perhaps we could best honor our forefathers on Patriots' Day by rededicating ourselves to make sure that we will stand up for the principals they so nobly advanced -- and make sure that we do extend those principals -- somehow -- to our posterity.

Perhaps.

Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net.