Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Those who serve

In the United States of America, we pause on the Fourth of July, more properly called Independence Day, to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, declaring our independence from Great Britain in 1776. This is the most patriotic day in the year, celebrated throughout the 50 states with the showing of the national flag.

This is a national holiday that fortuitously this year occurs on Monday so that the country enjoys a long weekend at the beginning of the summer. By tradition. it is a patriotic day, during which we experience outdoor activities, parades, concerts, political speeches rife with overblown patriotism, family food fests and above all fireworks.

Typically we Americans are not flag wavers unless we are rallying around some event that stirs repressed patriotism. Currently, we are showing support for our armed forces, fighting 2 ½ wars in the Mideast, while many at home complain about the high gasoline prices this causes.

I served the USA on active duty and reserve status and took advantage of veteran’s benefits that covered my education and assisted me in buying a home. I’m one of those Army veterans whose records were destroyed in a fire at the St. Louis National Personnel Center. The US Congress amended a law and appropriated funds to rebuild the destroyed files, which are the only official record of my, and tens of thousands of others, military service.

In the doing, over the past few months, I have been supplying the government with documentation that will partially restore my official records. As a consequence, a few weeks ago I was notified that medals for which I had been recommended were going to be sent to me. This is a little late, you may say, but then they are service medals, not medals for valor or meritorious service, so they had never been a priority.

But it’s now the Fourth of July and on the town common a patriotic concert will be held, the conclusion of which will be a medley of marches to honor those who served the country. This year I will stand with other Army veterans, proudly wearing the ribbons that denote my service as they play “The Army Goes Rolling Along.”

That’s it, my once a year concession to personal patriotism. Actually, I stand to honor those who can’t be here and who are serving the country on our behalf. I know what they are experiencing from my own similar situation when I served. We were asked to serve and did; that's the best that can be said on the Fourth of July.

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