This week, the state of West Virginia will celebrate the sesquicentennial of its birth - a brave and daring declaration of statehood that is unprecedented in American history.
Born out of the fiery turmoil of the Civil War 150 years ago, West Virginia was founded by patriots who were willing to risk their lives and fortunes in a united pursuit of justice and freedom for all.
To West Virginians, the names of Pierpont, Willey and Boreman are nearly as familiar as Washington, Jefferson and Franklin - each a pivotal figure in our state's improbable journey to independence from Virginia and to our very own place in the Union.
But of course, our forefathers could not have brought forth a new state conceived in liberty without the hand of Abraham Lincoln, who issued the proclamation creating West Virginia and establishing our state's birthday as June 20, 1863.
And, characteristically, with few words, the 16th president dismissed the arguments of the day that his proclamation was illegal:
"It is said that the admission of West Virginia is secession, and tolerated only because it is our secession. Well, if we call it by that name, there is a difference between secession against the Constitution, and secession in favor of the Constitution."
Indeed, the people of West Virginia had a choice of flags to follow during the Civil War.
There was, as Francis Pierpont pointed out, "no neutral ground." The choice, he said, was "to stand by and live under the Constitution" or support the "the military despotism" of the Confederacy.
We chose wisely. We chose the Stars and Stripes. We chose allegiance to the country for which it stands. We chose to live under a Constitution that promised the constant pursuit of "a more perfect union" of states.
And ever since that historic beginning, we the people of West Virginia have never failed to answer our country's call. No demand has been
too great, no danger too daunting, and no trial too threatening.
The abundant natural resources of our state and the hard work and sacrifice of our people have made America stronger and safer.
We mined the coal that fueled the Industrial Revolution, powered the railroads across the North American continent, and still today produces electricity for cities all across this country.
We stoked the steel factories that armed our soldiers for battles all across the globe and built the warships that plowed the oceans of the world.
And we have filled the ranks of our military forces in numbers far greater than should be expected of our little state.
Consider this: According to U.S. Census data, West Virginia ranked first, second, or third in military casualty rates in every U.S. war of the twentieth century - twice that of New York's and Connecticut's in Vietnam, and more than two and a half times the rate of those two states in Korea.
Today, 13.8 percent of West Virginia's population is made up of veterans, the seventh highest percentage among all states - higher than the
It's like I always say: West Virginia is one of the most patriotic states in the country.