Because of my experiences as a child, growing up overseas in the military, I am fiercely patriotic and feel a deep sense of gratitude to the men and women who have sacrificed to ensure our freedoms.
- Huge celebrations on holidays that honored America - Independence Day, Memorial Day. No matter which country we were in, the base opened up and welcomed the citizens of the country to join the festivities. Fireworks, airshows, parades, ceremonies of pride and patriotism. And, of course, ice cream.
- Soldiers in green berets who were always treated with utmost respect. I didn't know about special forces then, but I thought the insignia on their berets were awesome.
- In Morocco, being air-lifted from the Air Force base outside of Casablanca because the communists overthrew the government and began to kill Americans. To a 10-year old, it was all very exciting - I had no idea of the danger.
- In Spain, when Mom and I shopped on base, occasionally the sirens wailed and pilots dropped everything to tear out, leaping over a young girl who had the good sense to stand still. As the air filled with the sound of the scrambling fighter jets, I knew I was safe.
And then there was the flag. By order of Spain's dictator Franco, the American flag couldn't be flown unless it was flown under the Spanish flag.
Of course, the flag was flown at the command building on base but it didn't fly at each security entrance or in off-base housing where we lived.
The main exception was in downtown Madrid atop the Hilton Hotel. Money talks, right?
Occasionally, my family would pack a picnic and go to the park by the hotel to see the flag. Can you imagine the impression that made on a young girl? A special trip to see my flag. It became a sacred symbol of America and our freedoms.
Please remember, friends, that you are safe and free because of the men and women who have served all over the world and here at home to protect our country.
Hug a family member who has served. Send a letter to a family member or friend who is stationed overseas. The next time you see a veteran or an active-duty soldier, stop and say, "Thank you."