What I Can’t Help but Say this 4th of July

IMG_4076Today my girls and I talked about the Fourth of July. As they colored pictures of the American flag I played a music video about the flag and its colors. 

As we watched the video I saw pictures of soldiers and footage of men coming home from war. I saw endless rows of Arlington gravestones. I saw veterans saluting the flag with unbridled respect and pride.

And all I wanted to do was cry. Chill bumps rose on my arms and inside my chest my heart just swelled.

I always get this way around the fourth. When I listen to the patriotic songs. When I watch the Patriot or read a WWII novel. I get this way when I see veterans honored and the flag waving so beautiful in a patch of golden light.

Part of me feels silly but shouldn’t it be this way? Inside every American chest shouldn’t a tender heart beat proud and strong for the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Because here’s the thing: If we aren’t moved with love and pride for our country we won’t be moved to protect and defend her. 

There is a lot happening in our nation today that saddens me and breaks my heart but there is also so much for which I am grateful, for which I am proud. And I’ll be damned if I’m not willingly to protect what makes our nation great, what makes me love this land.

This Fourth of July, it’s easy to be discouraged, it’s tempting to lose hope. And while I don’t have the answers about our country and her future, I do know the first step in fighting for, protecting, and preserving the country we love is falling in love with our country all over again. 

Get personal.

Get emotional.

Be moved.

Then make a move for the country you love.

Watch a movie.

Listen to a song.

Read a book about our history.

Talk to a veteran.

Visit a war memorial cemetery.

Hit your knees and pray.

And take that pride that burns in your belly and do something. Stand up for what you believe in. Be the difference. Make the change.

The Fourth of July comes once a year but the American spirit, in its essence, cannot expire. 

Be moved. Then move. 

Because that flag… 

 Oh, that flag. 

What to Do this Memorial Day: READ!

War BooksI closed the book and held it close to my chest. After three weeks immersed in the pages of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand I was both sad and happy for the story of Louie Zamperini to come to an end. 

When I started reading this book it wasn’t what I expected. For some reason I thought it was a fiction novel set in World War II. I realized right away this wasn’t the case. Rather than historical fiction, Unbroken is a very real account of an American POW, a biography of an American hero.

While I love historical fiction my typical reading preferences do not gravitate toward history books, particularly those that tell the gruesome details of war and the soldiers who fight them. That’s more my husband’s department, and for years I’ve been content to leave this difficult and heavy reading up to him.

But there was something about Louie, something about Unbroken that I couldn’t let go. This story, albeit hard to read, is the closest I’ll ever come to understanding the price that was paid for my freedom.

If an American hero like Louie was brave enough, resilient enough, strong enough to endure the story captured in this book, the very least I can do is take the time to read his-story. 

It is nothing short of scandalous. That I can sit on my couch, comfortable and cozy on a cold winter night, with food in my fridge and a roof over my head and read the story of a man who lost everything in order to protect my freedom.

Flag StatueBooks like Unbroken, movies like American Sniper are hard to read, hard to watch, but I think there is an importance to these stories all Americans should make room for in their hearts, their minds, their lives. How else do we avoid taking the truth of our history for granted? How else do we avoid forgetting? How else do we avoid turning a blind eye to what is still being done on our behalf to keep us safe, to keep us free?

If you’re like me, and war books/movies aren’t your thing, might I encourage you to check one out? Take the time to set aside your normal book of choice and engage in the stories of men and women who have given their lives so we can live our lives in safety and in freedom.

And when you’re done, I hope you’ll take that unlikely book on your reading list and hold it close to your chest. A little more grateful. A little more aware. A little more willing to thank the veteran you see at the grocery store next week.

A little more willing to keep on reading. Because these stories are more than stories.

They are relics of our history, bought with blood, too precious to be forgotten. They are links into the battle against evil, being fought for us right now, too real to  be taken for granted.

An Unlikely Reading List…

Night by Elie Wiesel

1776 by David McCullough

American Sniper by Chris Kyle

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

American Wife by Taya Kyle

Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell

A Warrior’s Faith by Robert Vera

~A Message From the Archives