Proud to be an American

Suzann Darnall

On Memorial Day my husband wore his Retired Air Force baseball cap, with all his "bling" pins scattered about. We had to stop by Wal-Mart to pick up a few items as we were heading over to a family BBQ. A lady came up to my husband just prior to us heading to the checkout and asked my husband if she could give him something. He naturally said, "Yes", and she presented him with a red ribbon printed with the words, "Proud to be an American". She then thanked him for his service and gave him a hug. She had a small baggie with several of these ribbons and had obviously been passing them out to people as part of her personal method for holding observance of Memorial Day. It brought tears to my husband's eyes and a lump to my throat.

My heart swelled with pride a few hours later at the family Memorial Day gathering, held in my youngest daughter's home, as her husband asked a blessing upon the food and on the members of our extended family who had served our country through military service. On all sides of the family, we have veterans and active duty. Several generations have served and do serve. Some currently go in harm's way, while others have been there, done that, and didn't get so much as a tourista T-shirt in the bargain.

My father and my husband were career Air Force officers who both gave more than 20 years of service to their country. A very special moment for our extended family was another family gathering that took place a few years ago. My husband had the opportunity to join my father and many other veterans in Colorado for a "Fourth of July" gathering that paid special tribute to those who has served our country in the Armed Forces. We were all teary-eyed and choked up by the time my father completed his speech. You could feel the pride in the air as all the people honored those who had given above and beyond to allow us the freedoms we enjoy.

My family has a history of military service. We had fighters in the Revolutionary War, one of whom was my Grandfather (several times removed), John Young. Brothers from the family tree fought on opposite sides of the Civil War (or War of Northern Aggression, as some of us prefer). My maternal grandfather and numerous great-uncles served in WWII, with Uncle Jim killed at the Anzio Landing, which is where my husband's stepfather, Bill Crawford, "celebrated" his 18th birthday. My father and my mother's brother did tours in Vietnam. My husband was a "Cold Warrior". And, my oldest little brother was an Air Force Flight Nurse. We could no more dishonor those who serve our country than we could disown one another. Some ties go beyond flesh and blood.

But, with all the pride that I felt this Memorial Day, there was a tinge of fear overshadowing the celebration. A chill wind of change that started on Election Day 2008. For the first time in my life I truly feel our country is being run by those who dislike America, dishonor our military, and will not protect us. To me, the phrase "God Bless America" has become more than a pleasing motto; it actually is a very heartfelt prayer because I think we are going to need the aid of the Almighty to weather this storm.

If you did not take the opportunity to thank a veteran this Memorial Day for his or her service, try again come the Fourth of July, or any day you see one, for that matter. Many of them are pretty easily recognizable, what with their military baseball hats, lapel pins, missing limbs, or scarred faces. Despite what the politicians try to tell us about who takes care of us, when push comes to shove, it is the soldiers who ultimately give us our rights. Especially in a time like now, where the politicos are taking away freedoms faster than we can keep track.

© Suzann C. Darnall, June 2009 REPRINT

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