I realize July 4th has come and gone, but our love of country isn’t about one day. It’s about a feeling that rushes in whenever we hear the national anthem sung or see a flag waving against a Carolina blue sky or wake up to a tragedy similar to September 11, 2001 and feel Americans come together like a giant wave against terrorism. It’s more than apple pie and Cracker Jacks, baseball and boxing. It’s deeper and deeper still, to the core of who we are and what we are about.
My patriotism was exemplified when my husband and I went to Luxembourg. While we were there, we visited the American Cemetery and Memorial. Situated on fifty acres of land that Luxembourg gave to the U.S. after World War II, it is the final resting place for 5,076 of our military, many of whom lost their lives in the “Battle of the Bulge”. Additionally the names of 371 soldiers are inscribed on two large pylons—young American men who gave their lives in service of their country and lie in unknown graves somewhere in Europe.
When we exited the bus to walk toward the cemetery, I had not spent one moment thinking about anything except the reverence due while visiting the sight. Everyone trailed behind the tour guide in silence. As we rounded the large iron gates into the complex, I stopped cold.
Before me I saw a meticulous manicured lawn with row after row, as far as the eye could see, of white marble crosses. Thousands and thousands of crosses dotting the landscape like stars on a clear night.
Peeling away from the throng of people, I began walking across the soft turf. Now the crosses became real, not just ornaments lining a pristine landscape, but Henry from Pennsylvania, John from West Virginia, Dale from Oklahoma, and Pierre from New York. I read each name, expelling them in a soft swish of air. I began to feel the pain and anguish of every family whose husband, son, uncle, nephew, father or brother never came home—sons of America whose bodies lie across an ocean and thousands of miles from their loved ones and homes. My heart broke over and over again realizing most of their families would never see where their loved ones were buried. Tears welled up and flowed. I wanted to take every soldier home to their families in order to give them closure. As beautiful as the dignitaries had tried to make it, it didn’t feel right.
I found a bench away from the crowds. I needed to get myself together before others gathered around me with questions. I looked out over a field of death . . . man’s insanity . . . injustice . . . of which there were no answers. Then out of the corner of my eye something caught my attention. I turned and looked up seeing Old Glory flying high above the chapel—red, white, and blue waving her banner of valor, victory, and honor. I’ve never been more proud to be an American! Patriotism and pride filled my heart. Looking back over the crosses, I realized the cost each man had paid for me to live in freedom.
And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.
And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA!