I cry when the flag goes by. I try to stop, to hold it in, but the tears escape every time. I still love parades like a little kid, and that is the reason why; a community joined together in reverence to salute the essence of what it is to live in our country.
Sunday I attended the Freedom Festival Patriotic Service in Provo, UT. My family and 15,000 of our closest friends gathered together for 90-minutes of independence-focused singing and dancing. One of my favorite songs is the Armed Forces Medley. I only have one relative that ever served in the military and he never speaks about it. It is touching beyond description to watch as members of each branch of the service stand proudly to receive the recognition they deserve. I love to watch the eldest veterans and their wives and their generations of family. And I especially love to see our current or recently discharged soldiers standing at full salute with all the seriousness upon their faces that that office holds. If I managed to hold in the waterworks during the presenting of the colors, I guarantee you my mascara is running by the time this song ends.
The entertainment on Sunday was enjoyable, but I will forever remember the more serious event of the evening. An audience of grateful Americans watched as the flag of the fallen soldier was ceremonially folded and presented to the mother of fallen Army Chief Warrant Office 3 Matthew G. Wagstaff. She has been dealing with the grief that comes with losing a son for 10 months now, but not a person experiencing that moment with her would have denied the opportunity to take that burden away from her.
I cannot put into words the degree of gratitude and sadness I felt as I watched her stand with composure while tears streamed down her face. Every American who has not experienced the sacrifice of military life personally owes it to themselves to be in a place where they can witness an event similar to this. I will never have another day when I get out of bed and take for granted the acts of courageous selflessness enacted on my behalf each day.
And, so, we move closer and closer to the 2011 celebration of the United States' Independence Day. If you have a soldier in your midst, please reach out in any way you can to give them a hug and thank them for me, and for my children, and my neighbors, and every person walking free around me. If you do not have that special privilege, try this week-try hard-to make put yourself in a place that will make the cost of freedom real to you and your family. You'll never regret that you did!