|Why does it take something like the events of Sept. 11 to snap us out of our complacency and spirit us into a whirlwind of patriotism and national pride?|
|Why do children have to know about terrorism in their back yard and a war in Afghanistan to learn about the role of the U.S. Armed Forces and the high price of freedom? To use a phrase I give my kids when I just can’t give an easy answer, “Because, just because.” Or maybe better put, as my mother used to say with a sigh would be, “C’est La Vie.” — “That’s Life” in French.
I often tell others, “We learn from the past, we live in the present and we look forward to the future.” What else can we really do? Without hope we would all be empty inside and never again plant bulbs in the fall with their promise for spring.
In the case of this year’s renewed national pride, rapid rise of the American spirit and the resurgence in giving overdue recognition to those men and women who lost their lives protecting ours, we just embrace it with open arms and salty, trickling tears. To use a title of a well know poem, “Children Learn What They Live”, the coming months and years will teach our children a multitude as they look, watch and learn from the adults around them. Their response to our nations’ heartache will be modeled after ours. Their conversations peppered with fear and anxiety will be mollified by our careful and loving reassurance of our love for them and protection of them. They will constantly be watching us, listening to us and learning from us. It’s time to be accountable. It is time to be the U.S. citizens we claim to be on our 1040 forms each April.
Wherever you are this summer, whether it be the ballpark, a graduation ceremony or some other special event, take off your hat and stand when you hear the national anthem played. Sing with gusto whether you’re off-key or not. The veterans who have already paid the price so you can sing, “Let Freedom Ring” can’t hear you, but their families may be right beside you in the bleachers.
Put that right hand over your heart when it’s time to say the Pledge of Allegiance and mean it as much as when you exchanged drops of blood and swore an oath in grade school with your best friend to never, ever rat on each other, ever.
When it’s time for the “Moment of Silence”, no matter what faith you subscribe to, clear your mind for a bit and remember with heartfelt gratitude all those who have served and will serve in the days to come so you can be standing right where you are at that moment, a free citizen of the United States of America.
Originally Published as Show Your Patriotism Everyday in the Hamden Chronicle on May 30, 2002.
And then…this is a letter I received a little bit under a year later.
Monday, April 21, 2003
You don’t know me, but I had to write to say THANK YOU. I received a package today from Vanna Francia who is the mother of a close friend. Vanna, a Hamden employee, received your article entitled “Show Patriotism Every Day.” I felt I just had to respond. See, I am presently serving my country in the Middle East.
It was a very touching and very true article. There is not much that upsets me more about our country, than the lack of appreciation for what we have. This is not my first time away serving; I have been in the military for 19 years. And each time I have seen the same thing. This surge of patriotism and then the slide back to forgetfulness. Americans forget the sacrifices and the service of so many people. Both now and for many years past. It brings a tear to my eye to sing the National Anthem or to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Because I have been there, been part of a long history of service, which has created a deep meaning for me. But it brings even more tears to my eyes to see people who disrespect the country and my fellow servicemen by not standing, placing their hand over their heart, and singing or saying the words. It is for this reason that most of us serve in the military. At least it is for me. I feel I owe a great deal to past servicemen who have served and especially those who have given their life so that I could have the opportunity to serve our great country. So that I could live in peace and freedom. And so that I could say that I am a citizen of the greatest country in the world. No matter what anyone may think. Whether they believe in what we do or not. We, my brother and sister military personnel, believe it is part of the whole process of protecting democracy, our way of life, and our country. Most of us would not be here if we did not believe that. It is because we do what we do, that people have the right to speak their minds, to live their lives, and yes even to protest. I have no hard feeling against anyone who protests, as long as they are doing it because it is what they believe. It is these protestors and people willing to use the rights I have helped to maintain, that our government thinks long and hard before they send us to war. It’s all part of the checks and balances. They just have to remember to protest the war, or more specifically, the government’s choice to go to war. Not to belittle the service of the men and women who believe in it, or serve their country by fighting it. The servicemen should be honored no matter what the political believes may be. That’s what politics and government are for. The best way everyone can show their support to the troops, even if they are against the war, is to be proud to be an American. Be proud to stand and honor those who serve. Be proud to sing the National Anthem or say the Pledge of Allegiance. It is these things that will make most servicemen happy. We want to receive little personal recognition outside of our military ranks, but we do want to know that the country, the government, and especially the people, respect and appreciate the sacrifices of our families, our friends, us, and the servicemen and women that have served before us.
Please encourage people, especially children, to honor us in that way. There is nothing that says THANKS any better.
Thanks again for writing the article.
Christopher A. Rubino
Chief Petty Officer, Unites States Navy