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Protect this house

Posted: July 5, 2013 10:34 a.m.
Updated: July 8, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Celebrating Independence Day always covers a broad gamut of activities for Americans. Many of us observe the Fourth of July with fireworks, parades, barbecues, baseball games, trips to the beach, all the while proudly sporting the red, white, and blue. We will watch our children wave small American flags as the parade rolls by (on North Causeway Road, Pauley’s Island!). On their faces, we’ll see absolute naiveté as they move about almost as if in slow motion, oblivious to the world around them, worrisome only wondering what fun they’ll have next, and realizing in a way their young minds will allow, they are honoring an important day in their country’s history. I imagine the aura surrounding them on this July 4th is quite different than the one encompassing young drummer boys marching on the battlefields on this day in history 237. We will see our veterans safeguarding our “self-evident truths” at home and abroad, many paying the ultimate price. Many Americans will celebrate this day by reading out loud the Declaration of Independence followed with a toast, “To the United States of America!” (Or in my case, my kids, unbeknownst to them, will listen to the entire Declaration on CD in the car as we drive to the beach.) We will pay tribute to the freedoms we shan’t take for granted. We honor and keep sacred the meaning of this day now and in the past just as George Washington marked the day in 1778 with a double ration of rum for his soldiers and an artillery salute. Present tradition carries on the “Salute to the Nation” as 50 shots by capable military bases, one for each state in the union, fires at noon on July 4th, with naval vessels firing a 21-gun salute.

There are countless ways we commemorate our Independence Day. We all have our own traditions and diverse manners in which we honor our freedom. Though, after our Fourth of July celebrations end, what remains is a core set of American values, rooted in freedom and the experience of generations of self-government. They are an expression of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness driven by the optimism of a free people. This optimism can be seen in the face of patriotism -- the “devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country.” Patriotism is something Americans should always pride themselves in. It is made up of what we as a nation have learned to live by -- freedom, opportunity, honor. There are infinite ways to define our patriotism, many unique and personal only to ourselves. Continuously standing by the place we call home. This is patriotism. If we believe our nation’s leaders aren’t performing the best job they can and should be doing, we must call on them to strive for better. This is patriotism. Whether we agree or not with war, we must support our nation’s troops. This is patriotism. Ultimately recognizing we are unlike any other nation in the world. This is patriotism. We must be proud to be an American at all times. This is patriotism. Action and service to our country should last a lifetime. This is patriotism. The sacrifices the men and women of our military and their families make over and over. This is patriotism. Being part of a solution to a problem. This is patriotism. Hanging yellow ribbons and balloons of red, white and blue honoring soldiers’ deployments and their returns. This is patriotism. Flying Old Glory, a symbol of our nation, 365 days a year. This is patriotism. To stand by our country even when we disagree with our elected officials. This is patriotism.

Patriotism is not only present by doing but also present by what we feel. It can be the unspoken. It is the lump in our throat as we sing our national anthem. It is the forced back tears of pride at being an American during times when our flag is raised in the midst of a natural disaster. It is the uncontrollable emotion that overcame us when on 9/11/01, amid all the chaos and rubble where the World Trade Center no longer stood, three dust-covered New York City firemen standing boldly against a backdrop of devastation, raised the vivid American flag as a symbol of freedom. United we stand. This scene remains an iconic image for Americans. It is why we know we are the home of the free because of the brave.

We all have our distinctive experiences of patriotism. The union between our country and her citizens is an imperfect one. But just like any marriage, we must remain a constant in the good times and bad. Patriotism has to supersede our frustrations. The beautiful thing about patriotism is that it belongs to all of us. Nurture and protect it. “Where liberty dwells, there is my country.” (Benjamin Franklin)

Stars and stripes forever. Happy Birthday, America…

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