It was a crisp, chilly, sunny day on Wednesday November 11th, 2009. I woke up and excitedly put on my red and white striped shirt with three-quarter length sleeves and my favorite navy-blue skirt covered in tiny white stars. That was the day that my second-grade class was chosen to gather in front of 2,500 people to sing the National Anthem at the dedication of the new Veteran’s memorial in my hometown. This memorial was very personal to me because my dad was the sandblast foreman on that project, and my mom met with countless families and friends of veterans to help design granite pavers in honor and remembrance of their loved ones. Although I spent many summer days helping my mom go through checklists of pavers, and many nights sitting in my basement amongst stacks of rubber stencil, nothing compared to seeing it all put together and being admired by so many people. The stone entrance to the plaza reads “All gave some, some gave all.'' Four tall pillars surround a 6-ton granite globe, and a sea of personalized engraved pavers and granite benches pay tribute to the fallen along with words of thanks and appreciation to those who served and are still serving.
This story does not differ so greatly from what is happening in both rural and metropolitan communities throughout our nation. Within the past decade, community leaders and veteran’s organizations, such as the VFW and American Legion, have linked arms to create beautiful, memorials to honor patriots and fallen heroes who believed America was great enough to fight for.
When I think of our nation or watch the news nightly, it can be difficult to sort through opinions and bias. It is easy to feel like we are living in the “Divided” States of America, but I believe we are a nation that is one of the greatest places to live for so many reasons….
America is great when we respect our flag, national anthem and the pledge of allegiance. By standing, removing our cover, and placing a hand over our heart, we stand united in respect for these symbols of our freedom.
America is exceptional when our economy is thriving, and people are gainfully employed.
America shines as we witness countless volunteers, utility line workers, and truckers with supplies who roll in to support communities devastated by hurricanes, floods, drought and fires. We are great because of our police, emergency workers and military who are on-call to serve and protect our citizens.
America’s Commander in chief vows to make and keep America great again, but on the other side of the coin, if you are in disagreement with any administration, YOU have the ability to make your opinions heard by exercising your 1st amendment rights. We are also blessed to take part in elections and head to the polls to make our vote count. I am looking forward to voting for the first time in the upcoming 2020 election.
We are great because of farmers who feed our nation through their fruits, vegetables, and livestock. This summer, I picked strawberries for an entire season. I learned to understand the contributions of hard-working farmers, and what the words from farm to table truly mean.
Finally, as a young American woman, I am grateful for the freedoms I have that are not offered to all young women in our world. I can drive my car, work at the job of my choosing, dance, graduate high school, ultimately pursue my dream of attending college and one day marry whom I choose and raise a family.
The word great can also take on an alternate definition meaning vast or large. Great are the sacrifices of wives, husbands, children and parents who are strong while supporting and missing their soldiers stationed across the globe. Great is the courage of wounded veterans who return home after suffering a life altering injury both physically and emotionally. Now, I ask that you visualize yourself in your own community, or perhaps standing at one of our national monuments, looking, touching and reading the names of the brave men and women who died so our voice of democracy is heard and our freedoms are preserved. The word great resonates in the Gospel of John as we are contemplative on the loss our nation has endured in so many global conflicts: There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend.
As I wake up tomorrow morning and feel my feet hit the floor at the start of the day, I will be forever grateful for being born in the United States of America at this time in our nation’s history. America will be even greater when its people are grateful for the abundance and blessings of this nation. We have the greatest country in the world, and no one can convince me differently. May God bless America.