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07/03/2013

Holidays

Flag of a US AmbassadorFlag of a US Ambassador (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Something about holidays - particularly patriotic ones - cause me to write!

Independence Day is a holiday of great memories. Summer in Iowa, great food and lots of family, usually pretty hot, playing in the hose or finding a pool or a lake to visit - even going to the farm and picking some tomatoes...sound idyllic?  It was - and is.

My experience of serving overseas as a US Ambassador added more complex layers of memories and those are the ones that seem important today - and tomorrow.  Yes, we still celebrate with friends and family, eat too much and and enjoy fireworks displays.  

But now there is more.

We also remember the Independence Day celebrations that are held at every US Embassy through the world. A celebration of liberty shared with local citizens.  For me those memories include the Marines presenting the flag with precision and respect. They include the Barbados Royal Police Force Band playing the Star Spangled Banner.  Having the privilege of promoting two young Marines as a part of one of the evening programs. Performing on the steel pan drum the Barbados national anthem followed by "God Bless America" for the 600 plus guests at another.

That evening, before beginning to play, I simply said, "to honor Barbados".  As the music of the steel pan began, silence descended.  Then people began to hum along..it was absolutely quiet except for the humming. When I finished no one coughed or sneezed - it was still.  Then I said "to honor America" and began to play "God Bless America". Once again absolute stillness with only the soft humming.  I was so engaged, tears began to fall...it was a moment of beauty and shared love of country I will never forget.

Now those unforgettable moments return to me every Independence Day reminding me how remarkable it is to live in the United States of America.

In the United States we are free to pursue happiness...

while most of the rest of the world is pursuing survival. 

That surely gives new meaning to our Fourth of July celebrations...God Bless America - I am so thankful to have been born in the "land that I love". 

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