(Disclaimer: This holiday post is “off of the regular HR menu.”)
For as long as I can remember, Independence Day or the 4th of July has been one of my most favorite holidays of the year. Some of reasons I’ve enjoyed this day include: It’s at the beginning of summer and usually involved great weather; the day often included some good food (especially something from the grill); the day typically ended with things exploding in the air, and finally, it was one special day to celebrate the birth of our great nation.
With a hat tip to singer Lee Greenwood…I am proud to be an American….there I said it. I know that throughout history (and maybe even today) this has not always been the most popular position to take, but let me explain what this means to me and maybe more importantly, what it doesn’t mean to me. But first let’s take a short look back on how I think my love of country developed.
Let me start off by sharing that I was not even born in the USA. My life started in a military hospital on a United States Marine Corps base in Japan. (It is still unclear whether or not this disqualifies me to run for President, but that’s another post!) By no coincidence, my father was a US Marine who met my mother of Japanese descent in, of all places, Japan. I eventually found my way onto US soil at the ripe age of about 3-months old after my dad received his orders to return to the States.
Growing up as a young boy with a dad who put on a Marine Corps uniform everyday certainly had an early influence on me. While I didn’t totally understand what he did when he went to work, even at a young age I knew that my Dad was doing something important for our country. His last duty assignment in the Marines was recruiting young men and women to join the Marine Corps as a career. Little did I know that many years later, I too would be a “recruiter”, albeit of a slightly different kind.
Even after my dad retired after 25+ years in the Marine Corps, I watched him raise and lower the “stars and stripes” every day on the tall flagpole in our front yard, almost until the day he passed. As I grew older, the Marine Corps values of honor, courage and commitment were concepts I now understand were instilled in me from early on and were a primary foundation that would remain with me to this day. These lessons from my Dad also included the concept of love of country and honor to those who protected it, and especially those that gave their lives for it. These were values truly ingrained in my DNA.
When I was in second grade, I remember my mom was studying to take a civics test to qualify to become a naturalized American citizen. I recall helping my mom study for her test and this was a time that I became very interested in learning more about our country’s history. We read about historical events in US history, the structure and branches of government, the US Constitution, all those details that the average person on the street today would likely struggle coming up with. Looking back, I think she only missed one question on her test (the length of a US Senate term, 6 years not 4!) and I remember that my Dad and I watched my Mom beam with pride as she and many others raised their right hand to be sworn in as new US citizens at our Old Federal Courthouse. This is another vivid, patriotic memory that sticks with me to this day.
These are just of few of the early memories that I believe played a big part into what developed into my unapologetic, unwavering, lifelong love of country. When I think about what that actually means, “love of country”, I found that by simply replacing the word “country” with the word “family” it all seemed to come together for me to illustrate what this means and what it doesn’t mean:
- I was born into this family, without choice, and choose to continue to support, honor and defend my family.
- My love for my family does not mean that I don’t/can’t love your family as well, but my family will always come first for me.
- I will always put my family’s interest above anything, but this doesn’t mean that I won’t help other families in need.
- Is my family perfect? In a word, no. We may have disagreements and there may be individual family members who do things that are wrong and quite honestly, sometimes stupid (c’mon, we all have that “one uncle”, right?), but their actions do not necessarily reflect the entirety of my family.
- The success of my family does not need to come at the detriment of your family.
- I love my family enough to tell my family members if I feel that their actions are hurting the family or others.
- I am proud of my family and with open arms, welcome those who wish to join my family.
- If attacked, I will defend my family at all costs.
I’ve been consistent throughout my life in supporting my country regardless of who was sitting in the White House, who was in charge of Congress, who was sitting on the US Supreme Court, at peace, at war, in good times and in bad. This doesn’t mean that as a country we’ve always done everything right and that I always agree with every decision made by either our government or our citizens. Trust me, over time there have been many decisions made by the powers that be that I have disagreed with, but my focus has always been on the addressing the action(s) and if applicable, addressing those responsible for the action(s), and not hold the country, as a whole, in contempt.
So on this Independence Day, I will be thankful for my mom and dad and the examples they set for me, thankful for the opportunity to live in a country that allows us the freedoms that we all enjoy but unfortunately, sometimes take for granted; and thankful for both the love of country and family that I certainly will not take for granted. Happy Birthday America and God Bless the U.S.A!
“America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.” – Ronald Wilson Reagan