The First Time I Felt Proud to be American

For the first time in my life, I am really proud of my country because it feels like hope is making a comeback. Not just because Barack has done well, but I think people are hungry for change.

  • Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama spoke some truth right here, but she caught some serious blowback. How can an American honestly say they aren’t proud of their country? After all, we’ve been conditioned to be patriotic from the womb. Reverence for the national anthem. Reciting the pledge of allegiance in school. Respecting for the flag. We have been told, “This is your country. Love it. Die for it.” Some take that message and hold it dearly. Those who do may miss a very important point.

Being an American is different for everyone.

Let’s reflect on this.

My grandfather is a retired Chief Master Sergeant for the United States Air Force. My grandmother worked at the Child Day Care Center on base for years. My uncle was in the Navy for four years. My dad was in the Air Force for 6 years. My grandfather’s church was primarily military based people. I’ve been around the military my entire life. However, I never really had a connection to the country until adulthood. America was the place I lived, but as a kid I didn’t know anything different. Any form of patriotism I had would have been blind allegiance.

Fast forward to my late twenties. My mother is the Protocol Officer for the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base. She works with incoming generals to set up visits to the base. She happen to invite me to an awards ceremony she put on. It was a really good time! My cousin went with me, and we were immersed in Air Force culture. Chants. Songs. A seemingly united people just enjoying themselves in what they do. Out of everything, nothing stood out more than the presentation for the fallen soldiers.

I don’t remember much of the surrounding events. I just remember a small dining table for two. It was dressed as if people were going to sit down and eat. Two empty chairs accompanied the table. We had a moment of silence for those whose lives were lost in the heat of battle. Those who should have been at that ceremony.

That was a powerful moment!

It became real. It was more than fodder for social media debates. There were names attached those chairs. Faces. Smiles. Love. Longing. Grief. Families forever changed. People around the room silently mourned. In some cases, tears were shed.

For the first time in my life, I was proud to be an American.

Today is anniversary of 9/11.

I can tell you where I was, what I was doing, who I talked to, etc. That day will be forever etched into my memory. It’s my generation’s Pearl Harbor. This was the last time I remember my country being unified. We forgot about our differences and bonded as Americans. We mourned together. We were scared for each other. We comforted one another.

Today? We’ve lost each other.

In the midst of political turmoil, unity is severely lacking. Instead of bring living, we choose sides. We hurl insults at those who don’t agree with I our opinion. We disrespect other American’s experiences of being an American.

Until today.

The one day we all hashtag #NeverForget. All the while we’ve forgotten plenty.

I’m proud to be an American. Part of that pride is respect for my fellow man and an understanding that my country can grow and mature. We can’t be great until everyone is great.

America, let’s respect each other. Let’s grow together.

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