Happy birthday, West Virginia

West Virginians are a determined, strong, hard-working sort of folk.

From the state’s southern coalfields to the northern steel mills and everywhere in between, residents have always given it their all.

The state was born of conflict, in the midst of the American Civil War, and it has faced numerous battles and difficulties throughout its history, each of which has made it stronger.

Today is a day residents of West Virginia celebrate that storied history.

Exactly 156 years ago today, years of struggle and hardships beginning with the start of the Civil War, reached a conclusion when West Virginia officially joined the Union on June 20, 1863.

The influence of the Mountain State and its people has reached far beyond its borders.

It is felt not only along the Ohio River Valley or in the mountain ranges of Appalachia, but across the country, through the music of Kathy Mattea or Brad Paisley, the comedy of Don Knotts, the writings Pearl S. Buck or the athletic achievements of Jerry West and Mary Lou Retton.

Residents of the state have a strong pride in who they are, whether they live in Chester, Newell, Weirton, Follansbee, Wellsburg, West Liberty, Bethany or Wheeling; whether they call Charleston, Huntington or Elkins home; or whether home is Morgantown or Martinsburg.

West Virginians continue to stare down adversity and show pride in their state, its natural beauty and, most important, its people, people who have stepped forward to protect our nation and the world.

Residents of the Mountain State celebrate each and every day, but especially today as they mark another anniversary.

Today, we join with all West Virginians, wherever they may be, in wishing the state a happy 156th birthday.

Montani Semper Liberi.