I'll blame it on my mom, after all, everything is always the mom's fault. It started with red, white and blue pancakes on the 4th of July and an off key rendition of the Star Spangled Banner at the baseball games. She raised me to be proud of my country, one founded on the principles of freedom and the blood of many American boys who were willing to give up their lives for MY freedom. I was taught to salute when the flag went by and to sing the songs from the musical 1776 whenever the opportunity presented itself. I made phone calls on behalf of local politicians and handed fliers out at parades on behalf of those who exhorted the same values as my conservative parents. I didn't have a vote but I could certainly use my wit and enthusiasm to encourage those that did.
It was only fitting that as a Junior I was selected to be a Congressional Scholar for the summer in Washington D.C. Despite the fact that my parents did their best to ingrain upon my egotistical brain the concept of sacrifice, I had no idea the lengths they went to in order to secure my safe passage to the conference. It wasn't until a few weeks ago when I was thinking of the antique wicker table set my parents had painstakingly restored that I realized they had sold it in order to pay for my tickets. It physically hurt to think that I had no doubt just expected them to come up with the money without thinking of the sacrifices they made on a daily basis for my adventures and my “big plans”. Like so many Americans I felt entitled.
Supervision was strict, after all, juniors and seniors weren't to be unchaperoned. I shared my dorm on the D.C. Campus with several other girls from around the country and made friendships that I was sure would last until we were each appointed into different cabinets in the government. We took a field trip to the Washington Monument where we wandered with our groups trying to absorb the beauty of the moment when I heard a familiar sound across the reflecting pools. I have no explanation other than I was drawn to it. Like the Pied Piper it called my name urging me to leave the safety of my group and to find its origin. Even from a distance I could tell that it was Lee Greenwood and I knew beyond doubt that it was destiny that I was there and I wasn't about to let the fact that I didn't have a concert ticket prevent me from being there. I flashed my smile and flirted my way into the front row right as the prelude to God Bless the USA rang across the field. Tears filled my eyes as the words to the song engulfed the night and Lee himself looked down at me singing out of tune with the backup singers. My enjoyment was cut short by the sounds of my supervisor yelling at the security guard for letting me in there as he tried to jump the barricade to retrieve me. I simply smiled and finished the song before I made my way back to my group and the lecture that I would receive. It was a defining moment for me. I was an American and despite the challenges facing our nation I would always proudly wave the flag and get teary eyed when the song was played.
I didn't realize that years later I'd be standing saluting my son as he joined the military and prepared to make his own mark on the world. I was so proud to know that if nothing else I had taught him the words to the song, the meaning behind it, and perhaps blessed him with a little bit of the spunk his mother had to break the rules when needed and to stand tall.