I’ve always loved the 4th of July: it usually means vacation, swimming, food on the grill, delicious desserts, visiting with family, and fireworks at night. This year was no different: we gathered at my family’s house with relatives, I was in the kitchen all afternoon (!) preparing the food, I went to the local hometown parade with my dad, and we all went to fireworks after it got dark.
But this year, the 4th had a different, more poignant feel to it. In the past I would usually say to people “Happy 4th of July” or even just “have a happy 4th” because, well I guess it just rolls off the tongue easier. But this year, I made it a point to wish others a “Happy Independence Day” and I will do so from now on. We all know what the 4th of July is…but when we reference “the 4th,” does that really encompass everything the day means?
The reason for my change of lingo is because of The Warrior’s deployment. I thought I took patriotic holidays seriously after we met but before he was deployed. Now, they mean more than ever. And Independence Day has got to be the most important one. By The Warrior serving in the armed forces and especially by serving in a war zone as a soldier, he has forever linked himself with the proud history of our nation. He is carrying on the legacy of the Continental Army, who was led by great people such as General George Washington and who won our independence from the British. He is carrying on the legacy of the Yankees who fought for the Union, who fought for the right of ALL men to be equal in this country. He is carrying on the legacy of “the Greatest Generation” who fought in World War II, so that the world would be freed from Hitler and not be overrun by his tyranny and evil. These are just a few examples of the heritage that The Warrior is carrying on.
Now, we are fighting to protect ourselves from yet another evil: Islamic terrorism. We are fighting to protect ourselves from those who hate America and wish her to fall. But we are also fighting to protect the freedoms and values we hold so dear to our hearts. I know, since The Warrior has told me this, that when a soldier is actively engaged in combat, he is not thinking patriotic thoughts, he is not doing it because it’s his “duty,” he is not even doing it for his wife, kids, or loved ones. He is fighting for his comrades, his buddies who are standing right next to him, and also for his own life. It is a very unromanticized version of war that might be hard for us back home to understand, but we must accept and believe what they say. At the same time, it is important for us civilians to recognize their sacrifice as something so honorable, so valuable, and as something that protects our liberty and lives – these heroes cannot be forgotten and it is important that they know we appreciate them.
I started out Independence Day this year by going to Mass with my dad. The altar was decorated with red, white, and blue flowers and small American flags. At the end of Mass, the three priests and deacon stood facing the altar and Tabernacle while everyone sang the Star-Spangled Banner. I’ve never heard it played in church before, but it was quite fitting, weaving God and country, faith and freedom, together. Singing our national anthem now, post-deployment, makes me truly reflect on the meaning behind it. “Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave/O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” always gets me, and it especially did this year. As the celebrants processed out of the church, we sang America the Beautiful. My favorite verse is the third:
- O beautiful for heroes proved
- In liberating strife,
- Who more than self their country loved,
- And mercy more than life.
- America! America!
- May God thy gold refine
- Till all success be nobleness,
- And ev’ry gain divine.
I find it interesting that since The Warrior and his twin brother have been on active duty, Independence Day has been the only major holiday that their entire family has been able to celebrate together every single year without fail. This is a huge deal for a military family, especially one that has two soldiers in it. The past two Thanksgivings, Christmases, and New Years (and two out of the three Easters), one of the boys has been deployed, and who knows what this next round of holidays will bring. But Independence Day has been unchanging and I hope that it will stay that way – both in their family’s life and in the life of our country. I am so proud of The Warrior and of his service to our country! As hard as it is to send a loved one off to war, I am proud that he is willing to put his life on the line. I know that deployment will come again, perhaps sooner rather than later….I know it will be tough….but because I love him and I love our country, I will support him 110% so he can carry out the mission successfully and we can continue celebrating Independence Day.
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” ~President Ronald Reagan