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Musing My Patriotism

As I was driving home from work today, bumper-to-bumper traffic making that drive a bit longer, my mind started to wonder.  It started when I saw a bumper sticker on the truck in front of me - a simple one.  "Proud to be American."  I would say to anyone today that I’ve always been proud to be American and extremely patriotic.  But today I just had to think back at some of the milestones in my life that paved my trip here.

The first memory I have of patriotism was in Mr. Dvorak’s second grade class.  This boy kept getting into trouble because he would remain seated and refuse to say The Pledge of Allegiance with the class.  He told Mr. Dvorak that his mom told him he couldn’t participate because he was a Jehovah’s Witness.  At this point, Mr. Dvorak promptly sent him to the principal, thinking it was merely an excuse.  Mr. Dvorak got to keep his job (although he would have promptly been fired today, I’m sure) and we watched this kid sit on the floor during the Pledge of Allegiance every day for the rest of the school year.

I also remember very vividly my dad telling me about life in the military.  He told me a story of fate, about not being able to go on a communications interception mission he was assigned to do (the reasons escape me now) and how the entire team was killed in action within the first 48 hours.  I remember being so proud of my dad and how lucky I was to be born because of fate, not because he was afraid to fight for his country.

I remember when Ronald Reagan got shot.  I was in the library at school when it happened and some of the teachers running in with a look of horror on their faces.  I remember watching the TV the whole library period and I especially remember the teacher yelling at some students who were making fun of the President’s situation.  I was mad, too, and was happy that someone shut them up.

I remember being asked to sing the National Anthem at a basketball game in high school.  I think back to how nervous I was (it was just me - no piano, no music), and clearly remember choking up toward the end.  I was slightly off key for one or two notes, trying not to cry.  A couple of kids made fun of me.  I didn’t tell them why I missed those notes because it was something 16 year olds didn’t really brag about.  Except to one of my mentors - my music teacher.  He listened and said he was proud of me, but looked very sad.  He said something my father said before.  He said that kids in my generation didn’t know anything about war.  That it almost seemed that they needed a war in order to understand what being an American is all about.  A very prophetic discussion, I would say, and one I’m sure my son or daughter will never have with a school teacher.

I was so excited when I was old enough to register to vote.  I did so within days of turning 18.  I was a senior in high school.  I could share my excitement with my "geek friends" (yeah, we all had our noses buried in books), and they were jealous that I could vote and they couldn’t.  I also clearly remember that I registered as an Independent (gak!).  As I look back, my parents - who were registered Democrats - probably kept me from taking the full step over to the Republican party.  It didn’t take me long, though, once I moved out. 

I remember Desert Shield….then Desert Storm.  I remember the Heartland Heroes celebration that commenced when our troops came home.  It was at Rosenblatt Stadium and it was filled to capacity.  I remember being there with the company I worked for.  I also remember being incredibly intoxicated, but weeping openly while they played all the patriotic music.  I saw a lot of patriots that day.  But many were fair-weather patriots.  People that you would see a week later who were blasting the war, the troops, and pretty much anything else they could bitch about.  I was pissed.  Especially at my parents for their opinions on the war.  But they were Democrats and I wasn’t.

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Vince Aut Morire linked with Nicely Done