I’ve always loved the 4th of July, no big shocker there. I am sure you could all probably guess that outspoken Conservative Girl Jen likes waving around a flag and singing about the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave”. I wish there were more moments during the year when we all collectively remember how proud we are to be American. I also think it is sad that the only time I remember it happening for more than just this one day a year, was after September 11, 2001. I think we should be more patriotic year round.
But, there are moments in all our lives , where at random intervals, I have felt a surge of patriotism. Here are some of my favorites. I am not going to number them, because they are each special in their own way. Enjoy.
- When we were stationed in San Diego, CA the ship that my husband was attached to went out for a six-month deployment. He was, at the time, stationed with a Diver Unit and didn’t go on the deployment. All of my friends, however, were either stationed on the ship or their husbands were. It was the first time I experienced watching the boys leave. I was there purely to be an emotional support for my girls. The ship was on one of the piers on 32nd Street Base. It was a fairly large ship, the USS Ogden, an amphib. It had the capacity to hold 450 Sailors and 900 Marines. All the family members of those boys were standing on the pier…and it was saddening. Little girls were crying as their Dads waved goodbye while walking onto the ship. I thought that they would muster everyone, make sure they were there, and then leave, no fanfare. I was mistaken. After they accounted everyone was on board, all of the Sailors lined up at attention along the entire flight deck of the ship. They were standing maybe 1 foot away from each other. Right after they reeled in the mooring lines, they snapped to salute. All the family members on the pier were sobbing, even I was and I didn’t have a severely personal reason to do so. As they got ready to pull away from the pier…they turned on the loudspeaker system. They started BLARING Lee Greenwood’s God Bless The USA. There they were, 450 Sailors, standing in perfect staunchness, saluting the salute that is unique to the only Country to never lose a war. In barely coherent sobs every single person there sang along, “I am proud to be an American, where at least I know I am free. And I won’t forget the men who died who gave that right to me. And I would gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today ’cause there ain’t no doubt I LOVE THIS LAND…GOD BLESS THE USA!” Even though I had heard the song a thousand times, those words had never rang more true that they did right then.
- When I was 21, I moved to Jacksonville, Florida.and stayed with my Aunt Pat, Uncle David and three cousins. My uncle was a tough guy, and a rebel. I know he loved me like one of his own kids. We were alike in so many ways, the other kids resented me a bit for the friendship we had. My Aunt and him have one child that is biologically both of theirs, my youngest cousin Ben. My uncle had served in Vietnam but also had struggled with sobriety for many years. One day, suddenly Uncle David died, from a drug induced cardiac arrest. It broke all of our hearts. He was buried in a Veterans’ cemetery near the Orlando Area. The funeral was so sad, and my little cousin Ben was inconsolable. The VFW had carried out the military tradition of the three volleys (often mistaken for a 21 gun salute). That tradition always envokes a certain amount of shock, reverence, and bittersweet pride. After the shots were fired and the funeral ended, Ben ran over to where the Honor Guard stood, got down on his knees and was apparently searching for something. I asked what he was doing. He said with anger and frustration, that he was searching for the shell casings of the rounds that were fired. He could not find one. For some reason in his young mind, those casings represented everything his Dad loved. One of the Honor guard walked over and got down on his hands and knees besides Ben, who looked at him and started crying. The honor guard saw the last casing in the bushes and while handing it to Ben, hugged him while Ben cried onto his chest. He then looked at Ben and said, “Don’t be sad little man. Your Dad died a hero. He protected all Americans by fighting in the war. Now, everyday he’ll be protecting you as your Guardian Angel.” I was so touched at his compassion for the son of a fellow Marine. That right there was a personification of the words Semper Fi.
- I have a friend Amy who has a little boy, Tristin. When Tristin was just 2, Amy’s brother was one of the first Marines to go to Iraq for the shock and awe campaign. Since Tristin was so young, Amy wanted to make sure he didn’t forget his uncle. So Amy had a huge picture of him, in his Marine Dress Blues with a flag behind him, hanging in the house and would hold Tristin up to the picture and say “Tell Uncle Scott you love today and thanks for protecting us!” Since he was 2, Tristin didn’t talk too well or too much, but always gave his uncle’s picture a kiss. One day, the three of us went to the mall. Amy was driving and I was sitting in the backseat with Tristin. He lightly tapped my arm, pointed out a HUGE American Flag flying over a car dealership and said, “Unc-ie Scott ‘tecting me!” Through the eyes of a child, I realized he saw that flag as a symbol but I had never even noticed it was there. It was a humbling reminder.
- This one is just funny. I have quite a few nieces and nephews from my husbands family. One of the boys, Michael John, is just absolutely adorable and never fails to say things that are just HILARIOUS. He is one of those kids that you love asking questions to because he always says the funniest cutest things EVER. One day, I was playing with him and his sister Addy outside during the summer when the Floridian weather was gorgeous. Living in Florida though, was murder on my allergies. I was constantly sneezing and having watery eyes. Michael John and his sister usually have good manners (usually being the key word), calling people sir or ma’am, please, sorry, thank you….etc. Well, I was having another bad allergy day and suddenly starting sneezing up a storm. Michael John came over, put his hand on my arm and said “God Bless A-MER-ICA!” I laughed and said, “I think you what you meant to say is ‘God Bless You’.” He replied, “Aunt Jen you are silly. I can’t say God Bless You. Your name isn’t America.” ROFL! Guess when your a Navy brat, you hear God Bless America more than God Bless You.
- This represents both myself and my best friend Ambyr. We both share this memory. I think one of the best shows on television today is Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. They do amazing work, rewarding human kindness, and making a difference in the lives of people who actually deserve it. That being said…the ones with patriotic themes (9/11 survivors, military heroes, firefighters, police officers, veterans) are the ones that tug extra hard on my heartstrings. I remember one that was about a Marine, who lived in my hometown of Columbus, is a Buckeye, and a 9/11 hero. Any one of those things would make me cry. All of them together? I was bawling. Ambyr and I were watching it together…calling each other at every commercial to express our feelings of amazement over the strength and perseverance of that family. The Columbus Dispatch said this:
Thomas was out of the Corps when the terrorist attacks occurred. He threw on his cammies and sped to the World Trade Center, where he, along with former Staff Sgt. David Karnes, helped rescue two police officers from a deep pit. After two weeks of helping at Ground Zero, Thomas left without looking back. He finally re-emerged last August, when he realized he had been portrayed in the film “World Trade Center,” starring Nicolas Cage.
Standing in remembrance of all the Brave Men and Women Of the United States Navy, United States Marine Corps, United States Air Force, United States Army, The National Guard and the United States Coast Guard who have given their LIVES for the protection of the citizens of America, whose Independence we honor and celebrate today.