An American flag is one of my 2-year-old son’s favorite “toys,” along with his tattered dog, George, and a few hundred Hot Wheels cars and airplanes. I’m not sure where his fascination for flags started, but he is constantly pointing them out to me at the mall, the grocery store or in the car as we’re driving by.
He loves looking at the stars and stripes, and as we approach one of my favorite holidays, the Fourth of July, I can’t help but picture what kind of country my son will be inheriting and if he will ever fully appreciate the sacrifices made so he can proudly and continually wave his little hand-held flag high.
Independence Day holds special meaning for me for many reasons. My husband and I met at the Provo Stadium of Fire in 2004. I was on stage performing and he was in the audience observing. It’s a long story, but through a little coercion and scheming he was able to get my attention, autograph and phone number, in that order. And now here we are, two kids and almost six years into our marriage, getting ready to attend our seventh Freedom Festival together. Each year we grow in our love and companionship, adding a kid or two, overcoming obstacles, holding on to the memories of the past and the promise and hope for our future.
Being able to celebrate our nation’s birthday with my beloved family at my side touches a deep chord within my soul. I can never think about the strong legs this country stands on, the men and women who are still defending it with unshakable bravery and complete dedication without tears springing to my eyes. So many lives given. So many hearts broken. And yet so much joy and pride in knowing that the fight was, is and always will be worth it. I like to think that when a soldier gives his life, he is also giving his spirit to help strengthen the soul of America, which is born of sacrifice, love, loyalty and hope.
This past Sunday evening as I listened to the music at the patriotic service at the Marriott Center, one line in particular jumped out at me: “Who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life.” I think that line sums up perfectly the mind-set of our soldiers and service men and women. What they possess is so much more than bravery; they are the embodiment of selfless love and service. I’ve often thought, “How can I say thank you? How can I show my gratitude?” I think it’s passing on their legacy, never letting a single generation forget the “who” as much as the “what” that makes America.
I know it’s my responsibility and proud opportunity to teach my sons about their country, about the blessing of freedom and the deep joy of being able to proudly declare that we are “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” I hope this weekend as we celebrate the gift of America that my older son will be able to feel the great spirit of this land and that one day, as he looks at our nation’s flag, he’ll realize that his favorite toy has also become his greatest treasure.