These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it NOW, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

These famous lines come from Thomas Paine, whose rhetorical gifts found their perfect audience in the founding years of the American republic. He was writing at a time when George Washington’s army was beleaguered and dispirited, and the colonial insurrection against Great Britain was a far from assuredly successful enterprise.

Nonetheless, at Yorktown, Va., in 1781, the North American colonists at last achievedwith a hefty assist from the French forces of General Comte de Rochambeauthe objectives they had so memorably declared on July 4, 1776.

The fourth day of July quickly became established as the bubbling fount from which our virgin democracy sprang. Conveniently situated at the height of summer, the day became an occasion for merrymaking and remembranceand was further hallowed in 1826, the nation’s 50th anniversary, when founding fathers Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on that day.

At a time when a warnow in its fifth yearis being fought by an exhausted force (of approximately 150,000) that is comprised of less than one-tenth of a percent of the nation’s population, we thought it would be useful to consider the relationship between patriotic holidays and public obligations. What is patriotism? Is it being willing to serve in our country’s military when asked? Or is it being willing to challenge the vice president when he insists that his records are not subject to congressional oversight because he has decided that he is not part of the executive branch?

This year, the Independent asked writers with local and military tiesin addition to our regular columnist Hal Crowtherto look past the fireworks and flags, the parades and potlucks, to reflect on the public expressions and private obligations of the holiday. David Fellerath