For as long as I can remember, I have celebrated our nation’s holidays with pride. Three of them stick out with honor are 4th of July, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day. Now, anyone who lives, or has lived in Babylon, has probably seen my house on 4th of July. It has been a tradition for my father since the day I was born. Never, has a 4th gone by, without my family working together to make our house the Icon of Americanism. Our national emblem is displayed every which way in a literal sea of flags from one end of the property to the next. No American can stand on that property without feeling some sort of pride for their country. Why does he do it? Simply, Pride in his country.
Memorial Day is an important day as any of the three. I remember as a child, waking up at ungodly hours of the morning, to place flags on white stones. There were hundreds, as far as the eye could see. I did not realize the significance of them until I was older. I remember marching down Main Street and seeing crowds of people standing on the sidewalk, each holding their right hand over their heart with a small American Flag in their left hand, all standing tall, standing proud. The entire weekend was full of activities that involved many different groups of people. They came from every walk of life – bikers to Boy Scouts. Everyone was there for a purpose.
Now Veterans Day is upon us once again. This is another big weekend for many people in my hometown. Once again we walk down Main Street. Men and women of all ages crowd the streets just to get a look at the masses in formation playing music with echoing sounds from the Drill teams. Fire trucks roar their defending sirens to please the crowds as they respond in a roar of applause.
As I grew older, and time went on, people became complacent. I kept seeing fewer and fewer groups of people at the cemeteries. Fewer and fewer people gathered on sidewalks. Fewer and fewer American Flags were hanging from houses. I began to wonder, “Where is the pride going?” Growing up I was taught that this country is the most thriving country in the world. I was brought up to believe that Americans were the greatest people in the world, a melting pot of cultures and religions, one big happy family.
On September 11th, 2001, I was in boot camp. That day has been marked as the day that Americans of every culture and race came together to mourn a great loss. American Flags went on sale at record paces. Everyone wanted a piece of the American Pride Parade! All I could do was laugh, and be disgusted. Why is it that it takes a tragedy to bring the pride of your own country out? Why does it take tragedy to make people remember the ones who have already been lost? The young men and women who stepped up and gave the ultimate sacrifice, not to defend a leader of a country, but to defend our families, our way of life, our principles.
It has been four years now. Where has all the pride gone? Where are those record-breaking sales in American flags? Those same people who were once proud patriots are now cursing the name of the one man with the hardest job in the country. This is for all of those true patriots in the country. The ones who to this day take the time out of their holiday to pay homage to their fallen comrades, and stand on a sidewalk. It seems all too often that it is the former service men and women who value the lives of the lost more than the general public. This is for all of those who have gotten up at those insane hours to make sure everyone in that National Cemetery has their own American flag. This is for all those who despite their own personal beliefs about the man in office, will still buy a Marine, an Airman, a Seaman, and a Soldier a drink just because he appreciates their service to this country.
For all the years I have celebrated these holidays with family and friends, I never realized how much it means to the Veterans of this country. And now as my tour draws closer to completion and I have taken in those whom I have lost along the way, I realize what it means to be a Patriot – a patriot like my father, like Henry Hessing, like Hank Vanderaa. These men taught me the value of Honor, each from a different branch of service. Each connected in a different way. Each instilled with the same amount of pride in this country now, as they did when they served their tours of service. Men and women do not go to war to protect the ideals of politicians. They do not go because they are following orders. They believe in the Constitution of the United Sates of America. They believe in their families. And they believe in the public’s ability not to be completely taken in by politicians! They fought and today we fight for our families and our loved ones so that future generations won’t have to. And I am grateful for all that have gone before and those who are still serving.
Semper Fidelis and Happy Veterans Day!