Each year we celebrate the birth of this great nation. It means more to me than most people know. My dad spent 22 years in the Army and retired after proudly serving his country. In that time the military sent us to many places and it enabled us to experience those places and the people in a way that no vacation would ever come close to. There were many times when my dad would be sent on training duties or on temporary duty assignments and be gone for long periods of time. We missed him a great deal and he missed us even more. As trying as those times were, emotionally and financially, we were proud of our dad and our way of life. We learned to be independent and strong.
His two favorite holidays were Christmas and Independence Day. No matter what base were stationed at there was always a parade on Independence Day. My favorite Independence Day parade occurred in 1976. We were stationed in Aschaffenburg, Germany and the spirit of '76 was alive and well at our base. My mom made my sister and I long prairie dresses complete with bonnets to dress up for the occasion. We were six and seven years old at the time. We lined the street and anxiously waited for the parade to begin so we could look for our dad with his company. We were thrilled when we picked him out of the rows of marching soldiers from his company.
I am here to tell you that there is nothing more patriotic, moving or sharper than a military parade on Independence Day. When the soldiers march by the grandstand and the sarge shouts, "Eyes right!" the men and women snap to a salute, turn their heads right, and keep on marching by.
My dad always instilled the American way of life into us and made sure we understood what our constitution was about and the sacrifices made to make us a free nation to this day. There is no other place on earth that affords us the freedoms that we have for "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
I always get emotional when I hear the National Anthem; when the colors pass by in our local parades; when I hear about another soldiers ultimate sacrifice; when I see or hear about children supporting soldiers overseas; when I see and hear about soldiers helping others in the world; when I hear my own child sing "Proud to be an American"; when I write articles like this.
There is pressure in our government to speed up the process in Iraq. When we went to war, I could have told you we were going to be there for the long haul. We are so used to instant gratification in our society that we forget that an event such as bringing democracy to a country that has been under tyranny for so long does not happen over night.
Many may question whether the effort is worth it and they may question the governments motives for going to war. Regardless of the questions, the fact remains that human beings are involved. The Iraqi people have suffered much and are appreciative of our men and women in the military. They deserve the freedoms as we do, and if we can help them find their own way, then whole world wins.
Is it worth the sacrifice? You ask any American soldier if the fight for freedom in any country is worth the sacrifice and I would wager the answer would be yes. A person who is a soldier has a sense of pride and duty that goes beyond firing bullets and winning battles. They are humans first, and will do what needs to be done to make sure humanity survives under freedom and democracy. They have families, and you can bet they are thinking of them being safe in a free country each time they help oppressed people in other countries.
I think other countries can criticize America all they want but when it comes down to it, we have been free for over 200 years because we did not back down from a fight for freedom. In the 229 years that the United States of America has existed, not once can we say that anyone has tried to take over and turn us into oppressed people. Are there any other countries in the world who can claim the same? We can't turn the war in Iraq into a political pee contest, otherwise we end up with another Vietnam. We are there, we started it, we must finish the mission.
I hope the children and families of those serving in our military are as proud of their parents, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters as I was of my dad. I know it is tough to be apart from loved ones. Think of the big picture. Your family member has a part in history for a lifetime because they answered the call for freedom and are making a difference in the lives of people who could not help themselves today. Be proud to be an American!