The 4 of July. Just the thought of this holiday floods my heart and brain with precious childhood memories. I can close my eyes and instantly be transported back in time. I am a little girl in pristine Madeira, Ohio, holding my dad’s hand while we stood on the sidewalk outside the Daisy Chain gift shop and watched the parade go by. I look up at my dad, a veteran of the Korean War, as tears stream down his cheeks and his free hand is either placed over his heart or is saluting other vets marching by. I am equal parts embarrassed and impressed as his voice seems to be the loudest, boldest one singing God Bless America as the high school marching band plays. The parade is followed by a huge 20-family cookout in the cul-de-sac, complete with decorate-your-bike contests, endless hours of Kick the Can, and of course hundreds of sparklers. My memories are of what July 4 should be….a country-wide birthday party for America.
Today I still look upon the 4 of July as our nation’s birthday party, but I find myself focusing more on the concept of independence and freedom. I realize now, from the vantage of age ( and I hope wisdom), the sacrifices that went in to our ability to march in parades and watch fireworks. Though my dad never spoke of his war days, I have learned more about what he likely experienced, and the tears have a more powerful message to me. Now I am married to a veteran, and this 4 I have a nephew who is deployed. While I cherish the day to join the country in an American birthday celebration, I also am humbled and overwhelmed with the ability to pull back the curtain and see what cost this freedom and independence has been for so many.
How brave those men were 239 years ago, signing a declaration of independence from tyranny and an over-reaching government, not knowing what was ahead, but knowing with faith and conviction they could move forward. This July 4, as we enjoy grilling out and spending time with family and friends, let’s not forget the cost of freedom, and take inspiration from the visionaries that came before us!