07/03/2014 08:57 pm ET Updated Sep 02, 2014

Declaration of Interdependence

It's been 238 years since our Founding Fathers put their lives on the line as they placed their signatures on the Declaration of Independence.

They bequeathed to future generations of Americans a magnificent gift, a country where men and women could be free, one where they could truly enjoy the "inalienable rights" of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Our nation's first political leaders were men of enormous principle, great courage and a willingness to do whatever was needed to accomplish their goals.

In the concluding sentence of the Declaration, the 56 signatories pledged each other their very lives and honor.

What would our nation's first leaders think of the men and women running the country today?

On this July 4th holiday, America is not living up to the high standards that were set at the birth of the nation. Less than half of us approve of the president and Supreme Court. Only 7 percent approve of our Congress.

Where our leaders were once willing to pledge their lives to each other, today they can't even be bothered to cross the aisle.

More than ever, America needs the kind of leadership our country was founded upon. As the most powerful democracy in the world, America needs to be a beacon of freedom not just within our borders, but also around the world.

But where is that leadership now?

As we celebrate our independence today, there are freedom-loving people around the world looking to America for help. In Ukraine, a sovereign nation has been invaded and the world -- including the United States -- has stood by and offered little more than moral support.

In Iraq, where we have fought side-by-side with freedom-loving Iraqis for so many years, we seem to have lost our resolve. Years of American sacrifice and honor appear to be on the brink of having been for naught as ISIS takes city after city.

Can a nation devoted to liberty from its birth onward stand by and allow freedom to be threatened throughout the world?

As the father of a son who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq, this is especially troubling for me and so many of the families who have lost loved ones in this conflict...

In his two tours in Fallujah, my son Travis made a point of befriending the Iraqi forces he was advising. He learned a bit of the language, made a point of sharing time and meals with them.

He saw in them a real desire to have the kind of freedom that we Americans enjoy. He saw their gratitude for America's role in deposing Saddam Hussein.

When Travis was killed, the Iraqis recognized him by naming one of their outposts in his honor.

We have given the Iraqi people the taste of freedom only to deny them the support needed to ensure that freedom endures.

Today, the long battle for Iraqi freedom has taken a terrible turn and the country built on the notion of freedom and liberty needs to remain an active partner to the Iraqi people.

We are abandoning the spirit of our nation's founders when we lose sight of those people around the world who are fighting for the same freedoms and opportunities our forefathers fought so valiantly for in the Revolutionary War.

How do we honor the sacrifices that Travis and thousands of other brave young Americans made in Iraq?

We can't suddenly stop fighting for freedom, neither at home nor abroad. A mere 25 years ago, another great American leader -- Ronald Reagan -- put it so eloquently:

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."

As the most powerful democracy in the world, we have an obligation to those who seek freedom, no matter how difficult, expensive or long the sacrifice might be.

Tom Manion is co-author of Brothers Forever, an account of the friendship, lives and deaths of 1st Lt. Travis Manion and Lt. Brendan Looney. He is a board member of the Travis Manion Foundation.