We celebrate it loudly with firecrackers, parades, parties, and backyard barbeques.
Flags flap crisply in the breeze and we are all proud to be American.
July 4th evokes thoughts of hot weather, potato salad, hot dogs and hamburgers, swimming, and “chillaxing” as my kids now like to say.
But it’s important for us to remember and reflect on the history, the meaning, the depth of this holiday. Freedom isn’t free, and so many have died to give us the rights and freedoms we are blessed within America.
While we celebrate, there are many others who remain in harm’s way.
I used to be one of them.
I don’t believe you have to have served to fully understand how great our freedoms truly are, but I do believe that time in the service gives you a different perspective.
To me, it’s more than just a patriotic day.
Fear. Loss. Sacrifice.
Friendships. Laughter. Challenges. Adventures.
But most of all, pride.
I am the granddaughter of a decorated war hero, who was killed in an F-100 while on a training mission near Sioux City, Iowa. He left behind a devoted wife and eleven children, ages 2 weeks old to 17. My mom was the 17 year old.
I am the daughter of a retired Army Blackhawk pilot (and former Air Force fighter pilot) who served during two wars and spent much of my eighth grade school year in the Middle East for the first Gulf War. He has been retired since my Senior year of high school and was diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome a few years ago. They believe he was exposed to chemicals while flying over Iraq.
I am the wife of a former Marine (once a Marine, always a Marine – hoo-rah!) who spent months of his life deployed upon a Marine Expeditionary Unit. He responded with a small assault team to Pakistan after our consulate in Karachi was bombed in 2002, and served in Iraq during the first few months of the Ground War in 2003.
I am the sister-in-law of an active duty Navy Chief who is constantly on the go, leaving behind his wife and young son.
I am the cousin, the friend, the acquaintance of so many who have served, and still are serving.
I am a Veteran myself. I served six years in the United States Air Force and remain in the Individual Ready Reserves. Service runs in my blood, runs through my soul. It is a part of me.
On Independence Day, I remember.
I remember my first deployment to the Middle East. I remember when we took our first major casualties in Afghanistan. I remember how scared I was when my husband was part of the ground war in Iraq. I remember my second deployment. My third deployment.
I remember the day my husband took me to a hockey game in Raleigh, NC shortly after I returned from my first deployment, and as the National Anthem began to play, I began to sob uncontrollably. And how he sweetly put his arms around me, held me, and whispered into my ear, “That happened to me after my first deployment too.”
I remember the day I learned that my friend, and his entire aircrew, were killed in a crash. So many lives lost…
But I also remember the good times. The camaraderie, the laughter, the adventures. The travel, the exposure to new places.
The opportunity to serve this great country and represent it at home and abroad.
This land is my land…
This land is your land.
Happy Independence Day.