July 4, 2011

What Independence Day Means To Me


Freedom is not free by http://morguefile.com/creative/jdurham

Most of my childhood was spent being around the military. My grandparents retired to a military town and were very involved in supporting the military through volunteering. I grew up going to a military chapel rather than a synagogue. My family belonged to the synagogue but my grandparent’s commitment to the military meant supporting the Jewish men and women of the Army. I have such fond memories of that time.

My grandfather would tell me stories of his time in the military. How he lied about his age so he could join the Navy for World War II, his tour of duty in the Pacific, his now-unclassified missions to secret destinations. He spent 18 years in the Navy, retired at 36 and then joined the Army. The military was his life and never once did he say anything negative about his time in the service. He retired from the Army after almost 17 years! Truly I think my grandfather bled red, white and blue.

So it’s no wonder I have this strong military and patriotic bent. Seriously, I get choked up at hearing stories of the bravery of our American soldiers. One of my scholarships for collage was from the USS Northampton (CA-26) Survivors Associations (now renamed due to a recommissioning of a ship with the same name) my grandfather belonged to. The USS Northampton was at sea just out of harms way when Pearl Harbor was bombed.

His ship was eventually sunk during the Guadalcanal Operations almost a year later. At the Battle of Tassafaronga the ship was hit by two Japanese torpedoes. On December 1st, 1942 the USS Northamption (CA-26) sank taking 55 of its crew with it. Until the day he died, my grandfather could name all of them. That’s how important these men were to him.

I had the pleasure of meeting many of the survivors on several occasions. They created a scholarship and I was one of the first recipients. When I graduated from college I was invited to speak at their annual association meeting. Imagine looking out into a room of 80+ men who love you like a granddaughter and for four years supported you financially and hugged you like you were their own granddaughter. Oh the tears! Even now I get misty-eyed.

It’s because of my grandfather that I put flags at grave sites when I was growing up. It’s because of his love of the military that I met generals and dignitaries as they landed in the helicopter field across the street from the Jewish Chapel where my mom volunteered. And it’s because my grandfather was dedicated to his USS Northampton brothers that I have met two US Presidents – Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

It’s because of my grandfather that I wanted to be in the military. And while I never served due to physical limitations it never extinguished my passion for and commitment to supporting those who do. I can’t walk by a person in a military uniform without saying “Thank You”. And while many of them think it’s just part of their job, I know they have a choice and that they do make sacrifices I will never have to consider.

Independence Day isn’t just about freedom and the birth of our great nation. It’s about how we need to nurture it  and continue to stand up not only for our own freedom but the freedom of others. My grandpa didn’t join the military to fight off enemies on our soil. He did it because he knew that enemies, no matter where they were, needed to be stopped. That men, women and children, regardless of where they lived, deserved to be protected and safe and free.

I take a lot for granted. That I can even write this blog post without fear of any repercussions from the government, that I can drive, my daughter can get an education and grow up to be anything she wants or do anything she dreams as possible.

Independence Day has many trappings that celebrate war – fireworks, the 1812 Overature, and even our our Stars and Stripes. But deeply within all of these is the notion of our freedom. And for that, I am thankful.

So while it’s normally a day of family gatherings, sales and relaxation, what does Independence Day really mean to you?





Kate @ Songs Kate Sang July 4, 2011 at 1:01 pm

Happy 4th, Sweet Sara! Let Freedom ring!

shifra July 5, 2011 at 4:28 am

So glad you wrote this! Patriotism is another way to find commonality and link us together. Freedom allows us to really be who we want to be and celebrate ourselves and our differences.

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