This I Believe

Merrilee - Poughkeepsie, New York
Entered on November 16, 2006

I believe in the American flag . I think the American flag is the most beautiful and elegant flag in the world. I love how it delivers it’s powerful message with the simplest of designs: red stripes and white representing thirteen separate colonies with a destiny in common; fifty white stars on a sea of blue for fifty states united in a common destiny. The red symbolizes hardiness and valor, the white purity and innocence. Blue stands for vigilance, perseverance and justice.

The July Fourth is my favorite holiday.. I grew up in a small town in the 1950’s, when patriotism was a lifestyle. My dad was a fireman and every Fourth there would be a firemen’s parade. We would sit by the curb and my chest would burst with pride when I caught sight of Dad, in his captain’s finery, marching crisply to the beat of the drums. After a picnic, the fireworks began. My favorite display was the yearly finale, a ground display that started with a fife and drum. Next came the revolutionary flag which exploded into the modern-day flag, while the band played Stars and Stripes Forever. Everyone then stood in unison to sing God Bless America. At evening’s end, we would all head home in Dad’s Chevy pickup. Invariably, I would lie awake that night, wondering why I’d been so lucky to have been born in the United States of America, the greatest country in the world.

The Korean Was ended when I was in first grade. I will never forget that morning when I arrived in my class room and “Armistice Day” was scrolled across the blackboard. School closed and I ran home, stopping at every store and yelling at everyone I saw, “It’s Armistice Day! The War is over!” On that Armistice’s Day in 1950, I truly believed in my six-year-old heart that those soldiers were fighting and dieing on Korean battlefields for me, as did my Dad in WWII. I believe that the Americans who fought in Vietnam fought and died with honor to preserve our American ideals, as do the Americans fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan today. I will take to my grave the memory of brave firemen racing into crumbling towers. Can any American forget the image of three firemen raising the flag over the carnage and the message they sent to the world?

I remember being in Myrtle Beach the year after Hurricane Hugo devastated it. The South Carolinians had simply picked themselves up and begun to rebuild. I can still see a sign nailed to a lonely pillar leaning in the sand. It read, “Do Not Bulldoze. We are rebuilding!” I was reminded of that sign as I watched footage of people floating on rooftops in the aftermath of Katrina. I thought, “They will come back stronger than ever. They’re Americans.”

A memorable moment came at the 1976 Olympic Canadian/US basketball game in Montreal. Thousands packed the arena. Somehow, the most of the US fans were seated on one side of the court, and Canadians on the opposite side. When Canada scored first, a cheer well up on the Canadian side: “CanaDA! CanaDA!” In response, the US side erupted with, “U S A! U S A!” The walls and ceiling shook as the two sides exchanged chants. I still get chills. I believe the 1976 Olympics were the catalyst for a new era of American patriotism, after years of pain caused by the Vietnam War, and the events of 9/11 have solidified us. When I hear voices around me singing the Star Spangled banner at baseball games, I’m so proud because I love America.