Happy Fourth of July, friends, and Happy 240th Birthday to America! If you know me personally, you know that I love my country and I am an advocate for those who choose to serve. Yes, I AM a Yankee Doodle Dandy, and proud to be one!
With that being said, I would like to share something special to honor today’s prompt of RED, WHITE, BLUE. However, there will be photographs to accompany my story other than a meme at the end. I hope my words convey to you what I feel in my heart.
In June, I was asked by my 5-year-old nephew H to go to his preschool graduation ceremonies. “Please come to my graduations, Auntie Jill!” Of course I would go…how could I turn him down with his pleading brown eyes and his dazzling smile?
The two ceremonies were a week apart. As I sat in the audience of the first ceremony with family, we all looked for him during the processional, and there he was! Once he was on stage, he saw us all and waved. All of the little boys and girls wore red and blue graduation caps and gowns. The ceremony was lovely, and the children did a great job with their performances.
Towards the end, the children sang one more very special (and very secret) song. Each little hand held out a small American Flag as the song began, and together sang “God Bless The U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood. Immediately the tears welled in my eyes, but I was able to keep control because H’s little brother had fallen asleep on my lap. Part of me wanted to record this moment, but replaying in my mind’s eye versus on a device is more memorable. Those little voices singing about pride in their country while waving their little flags…I was immediately flooded with mental images of flags on every house after 9-11, of a country pulling together, of those who chose to defeat evil by serving, of those who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving…I could hear crowds yelling “USA” at sporting events and concerts, and our nation’s anthem sung at the top of everyone’s lungs…I could taste the unwavering pride for our country that we shared so strongly, a pride that has, sadly, since waned….
After the children finished their song, the graduation concluded and the red and blue gowns walked through the audience one last time. As H came by us, he had his little flag in front of him in one hand, his preschool diploma in the other, and a huge smile of accomplishment on his face. We went outside after pictures and cake. I picked up H and told him how special that song was to me and how proud I was of him for singing it so wonderfully. He just looked me in the eyes, cupped my face, and gave me a kiss on the cheek.
Fast forward to one week later for the second ceremony. The little graduates came out on stage at the beginning, and each was wearing red, white, and blue. Some had on patriotic hats. And what song do you think they opened the ceremony with? That’s right…”God Bless The U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood. The tears welled again as the angelic voices joined together in harmony, but once again, I was on little brother duty and tried to keep him quiet as he yelled, “My brother up there! My brother up there!” Another moving and special tribute excellently done by the graduates.
I was recanting this story for someone recently, and he said, “What a way to indoctrinate those little kids. Propaganda.”
Instead of responding, which would have been useless, I just looked at him in disbelief.
That is when I realized that THAT’S what’s so wrong with our country. The belief that everything’s a conspiracy, that everything is someone else’s fault, that people pass judgement so quickly without being open to all sides and are so quick to dismiss because of their own elitist views.
Here were two groups of children, showing pride in their country through song with no ulterior motive. It was a simple performance. I do not have children, but if I did and if my child took part in these ceremonies, I would have thanked the teachers and the staff for educating my child about pride and about our country.
I have never forgotten how much my world changed on September 11, 2001. I will never forget the first baseball game and NASCAR race televised afterwards. I will never forget seeing each victim’s name engraved at the 9-11 Memorial. I will never forget names like Nicholas Ott, Ronald Kubik, Christopher Duffy, and Vincent Frassetto, who demonstrated ultimate bravery while making the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
The only good thing I took away from that awful, horrid day in 2001 was a renewed pride in my country, no matter what. Regardless of the many acrimonious political/social/religious views and strife among us, the United States of America is our homeland. No, everything’s not perfect here in America, and improvement is needed in so many ways, but we can still come together and join hands. We can unite and support each other.
We can take pride in the RED, WHITE, AND BLUE.
Just as those little children weren’t embarrassed to sing “God Bless The USA,” I am not embarrassed to respect my country. I thank H and his preschool friends for reminding me of that.
I am proud to be an American every day, not just today.
Happy 240th Birthday, America!