I still miss Africa, but I have now spent as much of my life in America as in Africa, and, well, America feels like home now. Even as I've learned to call it home, I can't say I have passed all of my time on this side of the ocean with a great deal of patriotism. But my patriotism has certainly grown over the last several years.
I can point to one specific thing that caused an inner awareness about my apathy toward this country and the freedom and opportunity it offers. Shortly after the bombs began to drop in Afghanistan in 2001, I remember watching some sort of Presidential thing honoring soldiers. In it was a slideshow depicting soldiers saying goodbye to their families, the background music of "I'm already there" (Rascal Flatts maybe??) adding to the poignancy of the moment. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I remember experiencing that sudden epiphany: These soldiers are sacrificing potentially everything for MY country, for MY freedom. What an awesome call to service they have.
The 4th of July used to be, for me, just a merry day for fireworks and barbecues. I get it now, though. I get that I live in a great country, a country where I can worship as I want to worship and teach my children in the manner in which I want them taught. Those are freedoms which have come at a cost, and I am grateful for all of those who have paid that price.
Right now I have two friends in my thoughts and prayers whose husbands have been deployed. They are sacrificing too. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. I thank them for what they give up so that their husbands can serve this country. I thank my two friends for their act of service in that sacrifice.
As the celebrations wind down. As the last firecracker pops. As we go about our normal routine tomorrow, I hope we won't forget the freedoms we enjoy here and the people who offer their service for our independence.