I have the great fortune to live in a community that celebrates the Fourth of July in true Norman Rockwell form. In this small town on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, families gather along tree-lined streets to watch the parade, with gracious houses draped in bunting serving as backdrop. Picnic blankets dot the lawns where little girls and boys in their patriotic finest play, blowing bubbles, waving flags. Adults mingle and celebrate, sharing their summer plans and catching up with the young men and women home from college. It feels like America should feel, to me at least.
This year I will celebrate Independence Day with a great reverence for all who protect this nation and make our freedom possible. The holiday falls on the heels of last week’s trip to Washington DC where I toured Arlington National Cemetery and the United States Capitol Building with my sister and her husband Michael, both Navy Commanders. Michael currently works on the Hill, and took us onto the House floor from where Presidents address the nation and votes are cast that can change, and have changed, our world. I imagined FDR standing in that very spot on December 8, 1941 giving his Pearl Harbor Address:
And remembered President Bush at the podium as he addressed our nation in 2001 following the attacks of 9/11:
You cannot stand in that room, walk the halls of our capitol, and not be grateful for this extraordinary country of ours. Immersed in the flurry of activity that is DC, it struck me that for every politician who makes a mistake and withers from his or her own human fallibility, there are thousands who work behind the scenes and damned hard to protect and maintain the life we all live.
Even more awe inspiring was our walk through the 600-acre Arlington National Cemetery, where over 300,000 have been laid to rest, including JFK and Bobby Kennedy. We placed flowers on the grave of Michael’s close friend and Naval Academy classmate, watched the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier, and walked for miles taking in the enormity of our surroundings.