I was in my early twenties before I truly grasped the concept of love of country. I still remember the moment: sitting with my new husband at the 4th of July parade in Provo, Utah. They have a larger than life Independence Day celebration there and his family soaks it all in. Upon our arrival, my husband’s grandma handed us light up red, white and blue necklaces, flag bandannas and sun shields. She giggled as she watched us put it all on and warned us to cover our ears when the loud cannons passed by at the beginning of the parade. Then as the the veterans passed, everyone stood with their hands over their hearts and many members of my husband’s family had tears glistening on their cheeks. I suddenly found that I did, as well. I was there in the midst of fun, sunshine and family because of what those men had done and I felt more patriotic than I ever had. What is your patriotism story? When have you felt that feeling in your heart – buttons bursting with pride because you feel the love of the red, white and blue?
I was always taught to love and respect my country growing up – it was kind of an unspoken love we had in our family, not something we talked of often. I grew up in a town where the biggest summer celebration occurred around July 24th – our city’s “Pioneer Days” and so it was when I felt the pride of my ancestors. It wasn’t until I married into the Trotter family that I was totally enveloped in what it meant to be “proud to be an American.” In his family, that is something they are extremely proud of. My husband’s grandfather was a paratrooper in World War II. His time in the war was hard on him and on their family and it had life-changing effects, but we are all proud of his service and know the value of freedom because of it. Growing up, I always took it for granted.
I live within 15 miles of a major air force base. I grew up with the jets flying overhead on a daily basis. We just learned to break our conversations when the jets came by. One of the first times my father-in-law came to visit, he was awed by them. He looked all around to see the jet passing by and I then realized that sound of freedom was something to enjoy and admire.
As the years have passed, our Independence Day celebrations have been constant. We would go to Provo, watch the parade and the hot air balloons and then head to grandma’s for a huge barbecue, epic water fight and of course, a nap. About 20 years ago, those festivities changed a bit when my oldest daughter declared her independence by being on born on the Fourth of July. We then added in flag cake, ice cream and sparkler candles. It has always given the holiday extra meaning for our family, as if it didn’t already have it.
For many, Independence Day is one of their favorite holidays, only rivaled by Christmas in some cases. Why? The feelings. The family. The fun. Family almost always gathers for the big day. I know some families that focus their reunions around that day or that weekend. Shopping is done to find the best red, white and blue to wear (I bought mine about a month ago.) Hamburgers and hot dogs are found on almost every grill and watermelon rinds are in every garbage can. It’s the essence of summer, but it’s something more.
We celebrate freedom and all it represents. The parades, the bbq’s, the water fights all mean that we can do it. We can be free and do all those things because of what happened in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. And on the beaches of Normandy, in the deserts of Afghanistan, in the streets of Germany. All of that meant something.
So now my question remains. What is your patriotism story? What makes you want to put your hand on your heart? For me it’s the thought of white-haired Grandpa Trotter, who had beautiful dark hair when he served, shivering in a fox hole in France, hoping to make it out alive so he could some day have a family. For me it’s the first bars of The Battle Hymn of the Republic or the last words, “Glory, glory Hallelujah! His truth is marching on!” For me it’s watching my father-in-law, clad in his best Hawaiian shirt, grilling burgers on the big holiday, laughing at the grandkids and celebrating life, celebrating freedom.
Sharing your thoughts on freedom can be deep and personal, but profound. I would encourage you to do it. Think of the moments, think of why you love your country, whatever it may be. Having a sense of place, a sense of freedom is nothing to be taken for granted. Write it down. Record it. Share it.
Rachel J. Trotter is a writer at Evalogue.Life, where we tell personal and family stories that inspire, and help you tell yours. She has worked as a writer since her college days over 20 years ago. She loves telling people’s stories. She lives in Ogden, Utah, is busy raising six children, and loves working on family history alongside her husband, Mat.
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