This a post I made last night that I’d like to preserve:

dad's dog tags

Today in church, after a beautifully sung a Capella national anthem, I turned around and really, really hugged a stranger, a vet, with tears in his eyes and mine. I hugged him for every vet that I can’t thank personally. He was in Vietnam, like my dad. I’m thankful every day for what this country means to us and who defends it… I’m also really proud & grateful that my dad gave me these… That stranger told me later when I ‘met’ him (and apologized in case I was inappropriate:) that when he hears the song, he thinks about his 9 months over there. How dare we ever take it lightly…the flag IS still flying.

I was raised with a sense of patriotism. I was raised in the Midwest by church-going, blue-color-working, military-supporting patriots. My maternal grandparents were Irish immigrants, and to this day, they were some of those most America-loving people I know. Their basement was decorated with photos of presidents (all Republican, save for JFK, a good Irish-Catholic lad ;) ), military tributes, and The Flag. My dad served in Vietnam in the army, and my brother in the National Guard. {And I married into a similar family… my husband served briefly, as did his dad, and his stepdad retired from the Air Force}.

My first real introduction to what it means to support our soldiers was during Desert Storm. I went to a junior high that was all in. Our computer classes spent a lot of time word-processing letters to the troops (thanks to our awesome teacher, Mr. Griffin!) We tied yellow ribbons and talked about current affairs in class, and my friends and I watched CNN (another crush: Charles Jaco on CNN, whose super-hero like coverage during the first night is now reported to be fake. Good grief, I was a weird kid).yellow-ribbon1

Desert Storm took place when I was in eighth grade. My uncle’s brother-in-law (got that?) served there in the Marines, and I wrote to him while he was there. When he came home, we had a party for him at my grandparents house. I remember two things about that night: One is that, of course, I fell in “crush” with him and thought of him each of the eleventy-thousand times I listened to “On My Own” from Les Miserables that summer.

The second and important thing I remember is a conversation between him and my dad. My Dad, a sappy Italian soul, thanked Andy with tears in his eyes. And Andy, a young and respectful Marine, told my Dad, “All these parades and everything should be for you guys.”

Wow, wow, wow.

When 9/11 happened, love for country took on a new meaning. Among many encounters and special memories from that time, I began my first version of blogging, which I dug up tonight on the “way back machine.” That was the only time in my life when the country seemed smaller, more personal, and unified.

Patriotism is a lot more complicated today. Connotations of political and religious affiliations often skew the real meaning of it. The simplicity of it is an attachment, an affection, for one’s country and culture. Let me tell you, from the freedom to worship to Chicago’s skyline to Hollywood movies to the South Carolina shore, there is a whole bunch I love about this country. We can all lament about what it used to be and may never be again, but for everything it has remained, we have our military to thank. And we do… we so do.