This I believe: That the United States of America is a land of opportunity and freedom, built by our forefathers as one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
People often ask me where I’m from. Most often this is idle curiosity. Sometimes the question is genuine interest.
As a child growing up in the rural Midwest, I remember the daily ritual of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. It always occurred at the beginning of each day, and us children would stand beside our school desks while facing the American Flag, take our ball caps off, and place our hands firmly over our hearts as we recited those familiar words.
My parents were raised on farms. As a young family, we grew our own vegetables and canned in the fall. At one time, we even raised our own hogs for meat. I can remember at seven years old learning how to mow the lawn on a riding mower, and how exciting that was.
Before my brother and I finished elementary school, we moved to a big city in the southwest. It was like moving to a different country. We were enrolled in the public school. At the beginning of each school day, we would still stand beside our desks and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. “… one nation under God, …” Mom still had her vegetable garden, and would still can in the fall.
As a teenager, I would return to the Midwest and help on the family farm. My pay consisted of room and board. I can remember learning how to ride an old Farmall tractor to rake hay in the field, and how exciting that was. I can remember the long hours, and the hot sun, too. And we would go to church every Sunday as a family.
I later went to college in the Midwest to pursue an engineering degree. After my first year I decided to enter the school of mines and metallurgy. While in college, I worked a co-op at an underground zinc mine. I can remember learning how to operate a blasting rig, and how exciting that was. I can also remember times when I wouldn’t see the sun for weeks, and the hours were long, and my hands would get calices, and how good it felt to earn a paycheck.
I graduated from college and went to work at an underground salt mine in the south. Most of the miners had been working there for a very long time. Many of them were related to one another by blood or by law. No matter their differences, they looked out for each other’s back. I remember, while living there, learning how to ride an old Indian Motorcycle, and how exciting that was. It felt like freedom as I rode along bayous.
After a few years in the south, I took a position out west to make sea salt. It was a supervisory position. The city was very busy, and the pace of life was very fast. I can remember the long hours, and not having time to do much beyond work.
Today, I am back in the Midwest, and I work in America’s coal industry.
People often ask me where I’m from. I simply tell them that I’m from the United States. This I believe: I live in a great nation, full of opportunity and freedom. I believe that achievement requires hard work, long hours, and faith in knowing there is a higher being out there. I believe that families work best together, and that good friends are to be cherished. I am thankful for the freedoms I have in this country, and for the skills I have learned along the way. And I believe that no matter what, I have something to contribute to this great Nation … our great Nation.
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of the America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
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