In less than two weeks we will be celebrating the birth of our country. I was thinking about that the other day as I dropped my daughter off at her job which is a nanny position for a young family in the military. This family lives on the Marine Corps base and I was greatly encouraged by what I saw in their neighborhood as I drove up to their house. As I was turning into their circle, house after house was displaying Old Glory from a flag holder on the front of their homes. Those red, white, and blue colors were waving and fluttering in the breeze and I felt a huge sense of pride. It reminded me of when I was a child and almost every house in our neighborhood had their flag mounted and flying high on special days such as Memorial Day, Independence Day and other special occasions. I lived in a neighborhood of about two hundred homes and I believe that a fair guess as to how many homes did not fly the flag would be probably under twenty. It was just a given that we were supposed to proudly have those precious colors hurled and rippling in the air on those certain days that carried so much meaning to us as Americans. I loved the fact that these military families were flying their flags on a regular day, not even a patriotic holiday. As I was driving on the way out, I saw a young mom pushing her baby in a stroller and I pulled over and asked her if she lived in the neighborhood to which she replied that she did. When I asked her if most of the familes who had their flags displayed flew them all of the time, she smiled broadly and answered “Every day!” She was so pleased to be asked the question and even happier to be able to give the answer! I felt proud to be an American as I drove off of the base that day.

 

        What was a bit disheartening however was when I returned to the civilian neighborhood in which I live. To be quite honest, I had stopped thinking about the flags by that time and my mind was on other things but the contrast of what I had just seen on that Marine base and what was in front of me now as I casually made the first turn into my subdivision was startling. I realized that I wasn’t seeing any flags at all. Granted, it is not yet the fourth of July or any other special day yet the scene was so vastly different from the one I had just left. Then it dawned on me; I know that we as civilians sincerely support our troops both at home and overseas and I know that we also love our country but is our freedom and sense of pride the same as the folks who serve our country in the armed forces? Does our intensity of love for our freedom mirror theirs? Are we as grateful to live in this fabulous country as much as they are?  I can actually answer this question from both sides of the coin so to speak as my husband was in the Marine Corps for fifteen years. He made many deployments for months at a time away from our family when our children were little. He left for a six month float just five days after our first child was born, came home, was home for about eight months then left again for another six month deployment. I remember when he returned home after that second deployment, how confused our little son was as to who his daddy was. When my husband was home only about a day, he would just stand back, cock his head to one side like a puppy does when it is puzzled and just stare at my husband. I would say to him “Erik, go give daddy a hug” but he would hang back and just look so pitifully mixed up. On the second day that my husband was back , I kept urging him to go sit in his dad’s lap and I finally said “Go sit in daddy’s lap, he loves you” and our little twenty month old son went running out of the room. I had no idea where he was headed but felt a twinge of sadness that he was not embracing my husband. He came back with an eight by ten inch framed picture of his daddy that I had pointed to all during that long second deployment and as he clutched that picture, he pointed to it and said “ Da da” . The light bulb went on and I realized that he thought of his daddy as that picture, not as the real live man who was now back home. It pained me to see how confused he was and how he really did not know his daddy at all as he was away for the fourteen out of the twenty months of his little life.

 

        I tell that story only to illustrate the sacrifice and hardship that our military families go through because of their dedication and service to our country. The truth is that those two deployments and others that our family went through later on pale in comparison to the length of the separations that most of our troops’ families are having to endure today. Many families are being separated from their loved ones for one and two year periods and it is incredibly difficult. Little children are coping with moms away, dads away, sometimes even both parents gone for extended periods of time. These folks willingly choose to suffer these realities for the sake of our freedom and our country. Is it any wonder then that they are mindful and dedicated to honoring our flag in a way that is often neglected by those that are not in the military? These thoughts were racing through my mind that day as I stared at one flagless house after another in my subdivision. Do I think that people are not patriotic or not devoted to our country because they seldom display our flag even on National holidays? No I do not, but I do think that we as every day civilian Americans have just become lax and casual about what Old Glory means and that we should be proud and honored to fly her in front of our homes. It is a privilege, not a burden to do so. My husband makes sure that our beautiful red, white, and blue banner is pointed to the sky in front of our home every day and he is diligent about it. I do not say that in a smug or haughty way, but I am grateful for his sense of responsibility to do it. He served in our military for several years, he sacrificed and so therefore perhaps it is just a bit more personal to him just as it is to those families on the base. Perhaps it is unfair to expect those who have not served in the military to have the capacity to feel the same level of devotion to our flag as those who have, I simply don’t know. What I do know is that at the very least, we should all have a desire to display those colors on our nation’s birthday. The very reason that we have a choice whether to or not is because that dear ol’ flag was still standing some two hundred and thirty three years ago.

 

        If she was still standing then, should she not still be standing tall and proud in front of where you live now? Do you even own a flag? If you do, have you mounted the flag holder so that you can display it? If not, make it your next purchase and your next project. If you do, you might discover that you are holding your head a bit higher when you look out your front window and see her flapping in the breeze. Old Glory, our symbol of strength and freedom surely deserves to be in her rightful place on this upcoming Independence Day. Make sure that she is, won’t you?

 

And oh yes…..Happy Fourth of July!