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Four Freedoms Monument dedicated 75 years ago today

John Willoughby:

Greene Publishing, Inc.

Just days after the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944, the City of Madison welcomed the Governor of Florida Spessard Holland and First Lady Mary Agnes Groover Holland to unveil the Four Freedoms Monument installed at its new home. Today, on the 75th anniversary of its dedication, the centerpiece in beautiful downtown Madison stands tall as a reminder of the four freedoms all Americans should enjoy.

If you've stopped at the intersection of N Range St. and US Hwy. 90, you've probably noticed the large monument on the other side of the street. A monument that depicts four angel-like statues: one praying and three others hoisting different objects into the air. The statue symbolizes four freedoms that all americans should enjoy. It also symbolizes the heroism of World War II. It's the centerpiece of beautiful Madison.

Just one year before war was declared on Japan in 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt delivered a speech during the State of the Union, explaining the values of democracy and the protection that the First Amendment and the US Bill of Rights provides to all.

Later in his speech, President Roosevelt declared the four freedoms that we know to be true today. The four freedoms Roosevelt mentioned were the Freedom of Speech and Expression, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear. These four freedoms acted as a justification for war and resonated for the remainder of war and long after. President Roosevelt felt that even through the arts, a great number of people could be inspired to appreciate such a concept.

President Roosevelt commissioned sculptor Walter Russell to create a statue in accordance with the four freedoms declaration. Known as "The Modern Leonardo," referring to the artistic and genuine Leonardo da Vinci, Russell completed the sculpture in 1943 and the Four Freedoms Monument was dedicated to Madison's own Captain Colin P. Kelly, in front of 60,000 people in Madison Square Garden, in New York City, N.Y.

Captain Colin P. Kelly, born on July 11, 1915, graduated from Madison High School in 1932 and went on to graduate from West Point in 1937. Assigned to a B-17 bomber group, Kelly was the first United States Army officer to fly the Boeing Flying Fortress in the far east.

Capt. Kelly was in Clark Field, Phillippines on Dec. 10, 1941, when his B-17C aircraft took off into the air. During Kelly's bomber run, Kelly and his crew spotted two opposing ships near the coast. After orders to stand off, Kelly bombed the ships; only minor damage resulted. On the return flight to the air field, Kelly; his bombardier, Sgt. Meyer Levin; and the rest of his crew were engaged by the Tainan Air Group A6M's which had been patrolling over a city near the air base.

Kelly's plane was attacked once, followed, then attacked again. As Kelly and his crew made their way to their home base, Kelly's plane caught fire and began to burn. Kelly held the plane steady enough to tell his crew to bail out. As soon as the last of the crew jumped out, the bomber aircraft blew up, killing Capt. Colin Kelly. Kelly was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism and selfless bravery.

The Four Freedoms Monument was moved to Madison on June 14, 1944, and re-dedicated in honor of Capt. Colin Kelly. A speech was given by Florida Governor Spessard Holland and the monument was officially unveiled by Florida First Lady Mrs. Mary Holland.

The ideals of American policy still stand true today. The four freedoms are something to which every American citizen is entitled. No American should fear for past, present or future and no American should have to want for anything. Every American is entitled to the freedom of speech and expression as well as the freedom of worship as stated in the U.S. Bill of Rights. The selfless acts of Colin Kelly and every American warrior serving in the Armed Forces show us all what they fight for: our rights.

Today, we salute the monument that stands for our freedoms.

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