Last night as I sat on our patio in a comfortable chair watching the Centerville City fireworks display, I wished our grandchildren, who usually spent the night with us were there. But my mind went back through the years, and I remembered past Independence Days.
Whenever I think of Independence Day, several images immediately come to mind. I remember being in Washington D.C. with my family, standing across from Constitution Hall watching a reenactment of the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July 2006. Then a sudden thunderstorm drenched us, but it could not quench our love for our country.
I recall living in Italy at Caserma Ederle on the Fourth of July 1986. My sister Coleen and her family were there sharing the fun and fireworks with us, along with the whole town, because it was one of the times the base was opened to the Italians to come in and share in our American birthday celebration. As the fireworks lit up the sky, I was so grateful to live in a free country. Although I loved Italy and enjoyed our stay there tremendously, nothing could replace my love for America and the freedom we take for granted.
I think of the Bicentennial 1976, at Ft Hood, Texas, where I made colonial costumes for my children, and they marched around the block for Independence Day. We had recently seen the play “1776” in Austin and we had celebrated many of the Bicentennial activities. I felt so proud of my country and so grateful I lived here in America. A few years later a daughter who was not even born in 1976 had the part of Martha Jefferson in the Pioneer Theater (Salt Lake City Equity Theater) run of 1776, one of my favorite musicals.
I think of all the years of “mundane” celebrations—carnivals, 5-k runs, fireworks at the family cabin at Island Park (where we spent many Fourth of Julys), marching in children’s parades, watching one or another of our children marching in the band, or on a float in a parade, at community breakfasts—they all run together like one memory.
However, one memory sticks out like a sore thumb. I am not even sure it was the Fourth of July, but it sums up my feelings about our country. We were living in Italy, and we had gone to another military base. We went as a family to a movie in the evening there. On a military base, they play the “Star Spangled Banner” before each movie, and everyone stands at attention during it. This time however, a bunch of teenagers behind us were goofing off, playing around, talking, and joking during our national anthem. After it was over, my husband Ed turned around and gave them a scolding about how important it was to respect our country by standing at attention during the national anthem, especially when we were in a foreign country.
As Ed talked to them, I thought of all that our soldiers have done through the years since our country won its freedom to preserve our freedom. I think of the years Ed spent in Vietnam and I stayed in Utah by myself and bore and took care of our children. I think of the dangers and hardships he faced, not just in war, but in rotten assignments where no matter how much he hated it, he could not say “I quit.” I thought of him out in the field on maneuvers with the chiggers in Texas; I remembered when he was in Turkey and Greece, not in tourist areas, but in the boonies inspecting missile sites on our children’s birthdays. I thought of him in language school for six months away from family; and I recalled the many times he was on TDY (Temporary Duty Assignment or away from home). And so many other experiences that civilians would never face.
What are we expected as citizens to do? Is flying our flag on the Fourth of July and saluting it as it goes by in the parade enough?
I am not going to make any suggestions on what you should do this Independence Day or all year long to make our country better and to preserve our freedoms. I want each of you to think about it and to decide one thing you can do—then do it!