I pledge allegiance

To the flag

Of the United States of America

And to the republic

For which it stands

One nation, under God

Indivisible, with liberty

And justice for all

Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance may be frowned upon by those who consider it to be idolatry and goes against the essence of our democratic republic that was built on freedom of dissent, but this is my personal column and if I want to declare my patriotism to this great nation and its flag, then by God I'm going to do it ... proudly and without hesitation.

As I celebrated my 62nd Independence Day Wednesday, I took a moment amidst the celebration to ponder how lucky I am to have been born and raised in a country that allows free thinking and free speech. Sure there have been serious challenges to those basic principles throughout the decades/centuries, but the basic rights of U.S. citizens have been preserved and endure to this day. Through it all, America remains a beacon in the night for those oppressed people who have never experienced true freedom and probably never will.

Yes, I'm proud to be an American, and I can't imagine anything that would ever change that. And as we celebrate the symbolic birthday of the good ol' red, white and blue, it's only fitting we turn our attention from our personal problems and struggles, and instead focus on those who have given up so much to protect our freedom and independence and continue to do so even as I write this.

Every time I see another television feature or read a similar story in a newspaper about a brave soldier who lost two ... three ... four limbs in combat, or suffered a serious, debilitative head injury or was returned to his or her family in a flag-draped coffin, I am moved to my core.

It may be an uncreative cliché to state it, but it needs to be written regardless of the predictability. And after all, the truth is never cliché: Without the many sacrifices of our brave man and women in the military who have served throughout this nation's history, we wouldn't be enjoying a day off from work, devouring a delicious cheeseburger, frolicking in the water or laughing and smiling with our friends as the bombs burst in air.

America and what it stands for will endure, and woe be it to any person or entity that thinks they can change that. Right, as they say, is might, and it's no coincidence that the United States is the mightiest of all. Happy 4th and thank you veterans. There will always be a place for you at our picnic table.

Pass the freedom, and help yourself to a big slice of independence.

Give him a break

Now that the dust has settled and we've had time to reflect on the matter, it's time to state the undeniable reality that LeBron James is one of the greatest players in NBA history and there's no telling how many championships he may win before he hangs up his sneakers.

And to all LeBron haters who just can't seem to get over how he chose to depart the Cleveland Cavaliers and join the Miami Heat I would like to extend a heartfelt "Let it go, for goodness sake. Forgive and forget. Give the guy a break."

Sure, I thought the way King James handled the "decision" to change teams was inappropriate and way over the top, but it's time to move on and instead focus on what an immense talent the man is and will be moving forward.

Even he has admitted his actions when he signed with the Heat were bogus and egotistical, and he's apologized for it repeatedly to everyone from the Cavalier fans to the guy who sweeps up after games. What more can the man do for goodness sake? Who among us hasn't screwed up in life and who among us hasn't embraced and reveled in the forgiveness of our transgressions?

When LeBron made the "decision," he was just a young, naïve kid who was excited at the prospect of joining a team that had a bona fide chance to win the NBA title. He took himself and the entire situation way too seriously, and he regrets it to this day ... always will.

But he was just an overgrown, immature boy who didn't think it through and he's paid the price for that, and then some. It's time to let it go people.

If you're a true fan of the great game of basketball, then quit focusing on his overblown and ill-advised theatrics and instead enjoy what he brings to the court. Is he the greatest to ever play the game? Not yet. Michael Jordan still wears that crown with ease.

Will he go on to replace Mike as the greatest of all time? Probably not, but the potential is certainly there. Especially if the "fans," get off his back.