I stood in awe as the color guard presented arms at the funeral of my uncle. This was my first military funeral and I had no idea what to expect. I was deeply impressed and moved by the gentle words spoken by each Veteran who voiced their sentiments during the presentation of a wreath and flowers to my grieving aunt of 85.
These elderly Veterans hadn’t served with my uncle in the military, nor did they personally know my aunt, but their genuine heart-felt words of support and comfort were felt through the unselfish service and devotion to their country and its people. With tears streaming down my grieving aunt’s face, a Veteran handed her a folded American flag. I saw my aunt nod her head and try to smile as he softly spoke consoling words only she could hear.
On a nearby hillside, four American Veterans fired rifles in unison to commemorate the death of this Veteran who had once served his country with love and loyalty. Not just once, but several times the rifles were heard echoing through the tall fir trees. I was so impressed that these Veterans, these retired gentlemen, who also had families and other responsibilities that day, were sacrificing their time to lend support to the wife and family of a fellow veteran they didn’t even know.
Our Veterans of war deserve to be commended for their continued service to our beloved country. Observing them in dedicated service to the spouse of a military service person made me feel so proud of our military personnel and our American heritage. A feeling of pride and American patriotism welled up inside me as I stood next to my aunt holding her arm.
On the drive back to Portland, the funeral service kept replaying in my mind. I wondered just how much patriotism our younger generations perceive. It used to be a vital part of our education as well as our heritage. Today, few schools begin the day with either a salute to the American flag or the singing of patriotic songs as we did in our school days. If you were to ask the youth of today why they have the day off for Memorial Day on May 28th, most of them wouldn’t have a clue to its true meaning.
If we would teach our children our country’s songs and encourage them to respect the American flag, we would plant within them seeds of loyalty that could grow and flower as they grow older. As it is, patriotism in this millennium seems to be dying from lack of care.
For Memorial Day one year, when my now grown daughters were young girls, we took our family to the national cemetery to decorate, with flowers and small flags, the graves of those who had died fighting for our country. We wanted to make patriotism an important part of family life. Our children learned first-hand what Memorial Day was all about.
It is up to us, as adults, to encourage patriotism. Let us explain to our children important historical events and heroes of yesteryear who helped form and direct our nation. We need to retell the stories of America, its greatness and goodness; because the excitement of our country is caught as it is taught.
This summer, we will be celebrating our country’s greatest patriotic holiday – the Fourth of July. Out
of a revolution and the ravages of war one of histories greatest documents—the Declaration of Independence—was born. In the midst of tyranny, our ancestors dared to say that God made all men equal and had given them the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Let us discuss the significance of national holidays with our families, and display the flag in honor of those Americans who fought the war and paved the way for our freedom. I shudder to think what this country would be like if we had lost the War for Independence.
Let us thank the countless Veterans for their service and loyalty to this country in the years gone by, as well as their continued service today. I thank them personally for taking time from their own personal schedules to comfort my precious aunt during her bereavement. Let us not only be proud of these military people who have paid the price for freedom, but let every loyal American stand up and speak up for the land which is truly the last hope for freedom in the world today. And, yes, “God Bless America!”
Karan Gleason is a freelance writer, author of three books and a retired teacher.