By lex, on July 4th, 2011
My father was born in 1916, and grew up in Glen Allen, Virginia, just north of Richmond. Glen Allen has become a suburb of Richmond these days, but back then it defined rural. Dad’s father worked the railroads. Mom was born in 1920 and grew up in Wyoming County, Pennsylvania. Her old man had gone from coal miner to soldier in the Great War before coming back home again to serve as a paymaster for the company. He died in the aftermath of a train robbery that left the family destitute, and what with the Great Depression going on in their childhoods, those were hard times all around. She always kept the larder full, and my old man ate heartily. They remembered times when hunger wasn’t something that came up just prior to lunchtime, but rather something you lived with.
Right here in America.
Over 16 million of their cohort served the country in uniform in World War II, and over 400,000 of them never made it home alive. Dad sailed Liberty ships for the merchant marine to Mermansk and back, saw Stukas dive-bombing his ship, and saw a company ship go under in the North Atlantic with her bows blown off by a torpedo, the screws still churning. Mom left an abusive marriage with her two young daughters in tow back when Good Catholic Girls were expected to suffer silently and put make-up on the bruises. She moved to Washington, DC, serving in her own way in the Department of the Navy. They met.
By the time I came along they were more settled in life, but they had as keen a memory of their younger hardships as you or I have of ours. They could look me straight in the eye in my formative years and say that ours was a blessed land, the best place in the world to live, a beacon of liberty to all nations and well-worth defending.
It still is, and our sacred task is to preserve her so.
To do so requires that we tell our children the tales of our nation’s birth, the struggles we have faced extending liberty at home and abroad, preaching (and practicing) those essential virtues that define us as a people, regardless of our political divisions: the ability to make, and if necessary, remake ourselves; the ethic of personal responsibility for our actions and inactions; a hard-working and entrepreneurial spirit; generosity towards those less gifted; kindness towards strangers; the value of honesty and aversion of pretense; devotion to family and last but not least, the awareness that the fear of God is the beginning of all wisdom.
Oh, yeah: I almost forgot –
Happy Birthday, America!