It started with Patriots. They didn't call themselves that at the time - they called themselves Whigs - but they were patriots, no matter what you called them. Infuriated with long years of British rule without representation in the British Parliament, the population of the 13 colonies who would go on to become the United States of America began to protest British rule. But a protest is meaningless without force of arms: the Patriots wanted to "seize the moment", but without a military to do the seizing, the moment would be lost.
In 1774, the protests had reached such a fever pitch that the British placed the province of Massachusetts under martial law, restricting yet further the liberties of those people who wanted freedom and independence. The situation was untenable, and in June of 1775, the Second Continental Congress took the most important step toward establishing their independence from British rule: they formed an army. On June 14, 1775 - a year before independence would be so elegantly declared by Thomas Jefferson's quill - the Continental Army was formed, and placed under the command of a former surveyor named George Washington.
Washington had been in colonial militias since he was 20, and by the French and Indian War, he was a colonel. While it's popular to style Washington as the the military architect of American independence, it was the troops he commanded who won the war, not their General. The Continental Army was made up of soldiers from every one of the 13 colonies, and was the first standing army of the new nation. Previous to this, colonies had to make use of militias - part-time soldiers - for their defense, and the Battles of Lexington and Concord, a month before the Second Continental Congress, showed that method was not going to win independence.
Part-time soldiers couldn't have the training needed. They couldn't have the fitness needed. Militias were essential, absolutely, to the defense of the colonies, but what America needed was a standing army, made up of dedicated volunteers, trained and equipped for war. Not amateurs, not farmers with rifles, but professional soldiers, for whom war was an organized, disciplined affair. Much is made of the guerrilla tactics of the American forces, but irregular warfare still requires discipline and skill - as revolutionaries throughout history have learned to their chagrin when lacking it.
Enlistment periods were short - just one to three years - because at the time, Americans feared having a permanent army. Turnover was high back then, and the army never managed more than 17,000 men. And yet, over the course of the next seven years, these trained volunteers turned back the tide of the greatest empire ever known to humankind. Despite disease, lack of supplies and equipment, and an eventual near-bankrupcy of the new nation, the Continental Army fought the British forces to their defeat.
At the end of the war, the Continental Army was disbanded, save for a single regiment and one battery of artillery; political leanings at the time were still against standing armies. Despite the efficacy of the military forces, the political support simply wasn't there. Until, of course, a new threat arose, that of the people who'd been living here when the colonists arrived. The Regular Army was formed, and after St Clair's defeat at the Battle of Wabash, the Regular Army became the Legion of the United States. And in 1796, the Legion of the United States got the name it holds today: the United States Army.
More military branches followed, naturally: if an Army is going to fight at sea, you may as well call those soldiers a Navy. If they're going to be flying planes, well, eventually you're going to end up with an Air Force. But it all started with the Army. For more than 200 years, the United States military defended the homeland against all enemies: native, Spanish, British, Mexican, anyone who wanted a piece of the new nation for themselves, and over those two centuries, the homeland itself grew, and with it, our national defense, until soon the US military wasn't simply defending the homeland, it was defending the world. Against fascists and aggressors of all kinds, the US entered war on behalf of its allies overseas, until only one superpower remained on the globe: the United States of America.
And it would all be impossible without the military. Even those pacifist among us must recognize that all our freedoms stem ultimately from military force. While trade and negotiation and compromise may be the modern method of waging war, nevertheless those negotiations are meaningless without the force of arms to back them up. Without the US military, tyrants and dictators throughout history would have conquered not just their neighbors, but the world - as we know better than most, having been the result of the British empire's tyrannical spread across the globe.
The military is not a thing itself, though: it is made up of people, fighting men and women, and the men and women who support them. Even in today's world of cruise missiles and drone warfare, we still don't own a patch of land until we can put a soldier with a rifle on top of it. It is the veterans and active duty military that make possible the liberties we enjoy as Americans - including the liberty to protest the military, because that's how dedicated to freedom we are.
Veteran Liquids co-owner Amanda Cesnick knew this, knew that with every freedom comes a responsibility. No draft put her in the Army: she volunteered, and served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, about as far from the homeland as one can get. And when she was injured, she didn't take her disabled veteran status and forget her comrades in arms: she came home and founded Veteran Liquids with her husband Steven, whose life-long passion for the culinary arts served as the nucleus for Veteran Liquids' extraordinary flavors.
They could have left it at that: bald commercialism, with a patriotic name, but that's not their way. Veteran Liquids is more than a name, it's a promise: all veterans and active duty service members get a 15 percent discount to this day - contact us to get yours! - and all orders ship free to APO and FPO addresses. It's our way of showing appreciation, not just for the freedoms we share, the protection of liberty around the world, but for the individual men and women who risk their lives, their minds, their bodies to protect freedom, at home and around the world.
In the end, it's still all about the same thing: Patriots.