My family has always been patriotic… picture 4 girls dressed in navy and white striped bibbed sailor dresses, with huge red hairbows, flying flags and singing “God Bless the USA” at the top of our lungs.
That was us.
But in 2002, we learned a little more about patriotism.
We were caught in a Civil War. A coup d’etats in the country in which we lived. We were sequestered in our home for about a week, as battles went on around our house, in our neighborhood, and all around the city.
In that country, unless an expat was shot at with intent (as in, not by a stray bullet, but on purpose,) the military was not called in to evacuate. Eventually though, the French military did come in. They lined our street with tanks, and escorted my family, as well as many other expat families from the area, out of town.
As a 14 year old, I watched out my car window, at the horror that had become of the city I had loved for my entire lifetime. Street vendors weren’t out, the roads were empty, soldiers (basically shoeless, bedraggled, enlisted teenagers) stood along the streets, some with guns to protect themselves, others with only their cynical stares.
I’ll never forget seeing, along the side of the road, a pair of boots. Side by side, a picture of a soldier who was forced to leave everything weighing him down, and leap into the brush along the street.
As we caravanned out of the city, our hearts were so heavy.
We loved the city, we loved those people, and we loved that country.
But we were still expatriates.
People living in a land that wasn’t our home.
We got about an hour’s drive (on a good day) away from our city, and we neared the city where we were told the American military awaited us.
We waited, looking anxiously ahead.
Then, it happened.
The sight that followed is literally burned on my mind. I pray I never forget it.
Up, on top of a hill, was a Hummer. A big one. Not a measly little vehicle that usually graced the streets where we lived. Oh no, this was the real deal…
Flying high over the hummer was a flag.
A red, white and blue flag.
A beautiful, tears streaming down your face, sight of home, freedom’s flag, flying high.
That night, we slept in a walled compound as larger-than-life American soldiers stood atop the walls, guns ready, watching over us.
They played with the kids, hugged excited women, guarded our lives, and shared one very important thing with us: citizenship.
Today I am thankful for those men & women who loved their country enough to rescue me from another one. Those men and women who are still fighting, all around the world, to keep us safe and free here at home.
You, members of the US Military, will always be larger than life to me.
Happy Memorial Day!