Hot July days simmer across our hills bringing orange day lilies, deeper orange butterfly weed (pleurisy weed,) vacations, and lightning bugs. Sporadic thunderstorms bring momentary relief from the heat, and water our gardens just in time. Green beans are developing on their vines, and the first of the summer squash is harvested.
We teeter on the brink of America’s birthday, that annual celebration of our freedom and liberty. It is a celebration mixed with sadness this year, as many of our young people (and older also) are overseas still defending our freedom. Many have paid the ultimate price, and Independence Day will be a heartache to a lot of families.
Our country is in a turmoil, and I am beginning to wonder if patriotism is a thing of the past. Insidious forces tear at the fabric of unity and undermine the very foundation that our country was built upon. The United States prospered when God-fearing men relied upon the Lord for wisdom and guidance. Unless America turns again to God, we are doomed.
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (Chr. 7:14) That is our only hope.
The Fourth of July has always meant fireworks, picnics, and fun to the younger generation. It was the same when we were youngsters. Our family celebrated Independence Day by picnicking and swimming down on Big Laurel Creek. We always had watermelon and fried chicken—and sometimes the first mess of fresh half runner green beans.
My first brush with patriotism came when I began the first grade at Hagar School. With the sound of the vigorous ringing of the school bell, we formed two lines at the foot of the wooden steps leading to the schoolhouse porch.
It was an honor to stand in front of the line (I still don’t know why!) and there was surreptitious shoving and elbowing until we felt Mr. Hinkle’s steely eye upon us. Then both lines came to order, we placed our hands upon our hearts, and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. After I more or less learned the words, they still had no meaning to me, but I enjoyed the chant and rhythm.
We sang lots of patriotic songs, including “The Star Spangled Banner.” We probably became more misty-eyed over our state song, “The West Virginia Hills,” as we could readily identify with the hills that surrounded us.
Somewhere along the line, a loyal feeling for our country began to creep into our consciousness. We were proud of Cousin Leo, who joined the Armed Forces and went away to fight in WWII—always referred to in our family as “The War.”
He was wounded in Okinawa and came home with an array of medals, including a Purple Heart, which he never talked much about. We children felt a personal interest in the war because of Cousin Leo. It must have been about that time that we began to realize that our freedom was bought with a price.
Later, when the Korean War took its terrible toll, and a cherished one was killed in combat, I really began to count the cost of our freedom. It was real heartache now, and bitter tears. Just as it has always been down through the ages, young men and boys (and now women) paid the ultimate price with their lives. Mothers, wives, and sweethearts paid their own price also.
Then came the horrendous assault on our own nation on September 11, date that is forever burned into our minds. Suddenly, we were face to face with enemies who would put an end to our liberty. There was a rush of patriotism and prayer at that time, and a renewed love for our country.
We can never afford to lose sight of the cost of our freedom. Our troops need and deserve our prayers and support. The leaders of our countries also need prayer. The Bible urges this. “I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men. For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” (I Timothy 2-1:2)
Because of those willing to fight for our freedom, we are still able to come and go as we please—to picnic, set off fireworks, celebrate and enjoy family outings. To our children, the Fourth of July has always been a time for this. That is the way it should be—liberty to enjoy childhood, to romp and play. The price has already been paid for them. Their turn will come later.