Summer is a time filled with patriotic holidays. Memorial Day, Flag Day on June 14th (which I just learned is also the U.S. Army’s birthday), and, of course, Independence Day/4th of July.
I was raised in a patriotic household. We were taught to show respect for the flag. Stand up and place our hand over our heart for the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem. Never let an American flag drag on the ground. I always loved learning about American history, especially the colonial and Revolutionary War era.
We were taught to honor the military. Many of my family members served in World War II. This blog is named for my great-uncle George, who was so convicted of the need to fight that he went to Canada and joined the Royal Air Force before the United States even entered the Second World War. My mom is proud to share a birthday with the U.S. Marine Corps. (November 10th, in case you were wondering.)
My interest in history and my involvement in performing arts came together in the selection of a topic for my senior thesis in college. I wrote about the founding and the importance of the USO in World War II. For those of you who may not be familiar, the USO stands for the United Service Organizations.
It was originally a conglomeration of six religious and charitable organizations that joined together to provide physical, emotional, and spiritual support for the military. There were USO canteens and centers, mostly at transportation sites where service members could write letters, take a shower, nap, drink coffee or have a conversation with a USO hostess. These centers also hosted dances and social events for the military.
There was also the Camp Show side of the USO that performed for the soldiers both domestically and overseas. Some of the performers included Hollywood luminaries like comedian/actor Bob Hope and the singing group, The Andrews Sisters. The USO still provides support and entertainment for our military to this day.
I had just turned 11 years old when the terrorist attacks of 9/11 took place. Growing up in a post-September 11th world amidst ensuing security concerns and the subsequent and on-going war on terror, I think awareness of what it means to be an American and respect for our troops have definitely played more prominent roles in my life than they possibly would have otherwise.
One of the main post office buildings in my hometown is named in memory of a school classmate of my brother’s. This friend was a Marine who died fighting in Iraq in 2004. He was a faith-filled, honorable young man.
As a I grow older, my support and gratitude for the military only continues to deepen and become more personal.
As we all know, summer is also wedding season. This June, I was honored to be a bridesmaid in two weddings of very close friends. One of my friends married a former Marine and the other married an active-duty member of the Navy.
The latter friend’s wedding included all the pomp and circumstance of the military, such as the sabre arch under which the newly married couple walked upon exiting the church as well as the ceremonial cake cutting with a sword.
Let me tell you: the patriotic, hopeless romantic in me was eating all of this up. I challenge any red-blooded American woman not to feel at least a twinge of a heart-flutter when she first sees a man in uniform. They just look so dang sharp.
But I digress…
On a more serious note, meeting, celebrating, and dancing with these guys at the wedding and knowing they are all serving our nation made things more real, more personal. I consider my friend’s now husband also one of my friends.
My friend is now a military wife. She will be experiencing all the unique challenges, joys, and fears of that role.
I half-jokingly told one of my friends/fellow bridesmaids that now all these guys are on my worry list and prayer list.
Do we really stop and think about the sacrifices of the military and their families? We cannot and must not be indifferent.
They are volunteering to go fight, knowing the life-threatening dangers they will be facing, while many of their peers are clamoring for “safe spaces” on college campuses in order to hide from anyone or anything that might offend them or challenge their opinions. Quite the dichotomy.
Yet they can protest and call for safe spaces because of our military-protected freedom.
“Land of the free because of the brave.” Some may think it sounds cheesy but it is true.
And how are we using that hard-won freedom? Are we using it responsibly, working for the common good? Do we engage with our political opponents respectfully or do we resort to mean-spirited, personal attacks?
Do we show respect when the National Anthem is played? Do we proudly display the American flag? Do we learn the true history of our country, warts and all, appreciating the good while learning from the mistakes? Do we remember our troops and their loved ones in our prayers?
Do we thoughtfully and actively participate in the voting process? Could we perhaps donate our time or our money to a worthy organization that supports the military? Do we thank service members when the opportunity presents itself?
How can we be more patriotic and self-sacrificial Americans?
To all veterans and active-duty service members and to your families and loved ones: THANK YOU!!! Americans can never adequately express the debt of gratitude we owe to you. God bless and protect you all!