July is not just the golden month of summer for most families. Golden in that it is the one month, nationwide, when most schools are guaranteed not to be in session… whatsoever. But, July is also “firecracker” month, the month we gather, cook out, and blow things up to the squealing delight of young and old, alike. The month we celebrate our nation’s freedom.
Although I did serve four years in the US Air Force in the early to mid 1980’s, by the time I met my wife and we started our family, I was in a completely different line of work. However, early on my wife and I agreed that it was important for our boys, growing up in a country in which it would be so easy to casually enjoy so many freedoms, to somehow learn to understand and truly appreciate sacrifice. In particular, the sacrifices made by countless men, women, and family associated with our Armed Forces.
Regardless of what side of the political aisle people are from, most Americans seem to be on the same side when it comes to supporting our service men and women. Sadly, this has not always been the case, as a few of us are just old enough to remember the tragic treatment of soldiers coming home from Vietnam. But, in the past 20 years, remembering what it is to honor those who give so much – sometimes even giving all – appears to be trending.
From the time our sons could talk, we taught them to recognize service members, identify the various branches, and to always express their gratitude for the sacrifice of any patriot they might happen across. One of our sons was painfully shy and struggled even speaking to most of our extended family and close friends. But just like his brothers, he lit up when he saw a soldier, and would boldly express his thanks. Maybe he somehow knew, even at an early age, stepping out of a social comfort zone was nothing in comparison to a young man or woman willing to step into a combat zone.
As the boys hit their tweens, we began watching various war films and documentary series. These things always served as springboards to lengthy discussions regarding the things that lead to such conflicts, as well as the many brave current and historical figures that fight and have fought in them. In time, real-life heroes such as Captain Dick Winters from Easy Company replaced superheroes such as Batman from Gotham City. Oh, they were still very typical 21st Century kids who argued with each other over whose turn it was to empty the garbage, but they were daily growing in their appreciation of those willing to be so unselfishly, incredibly uncomfortable for the rest of us to live in comfort.
Today, a small flag with two, blue stars hangs in a front window of our home. In the 1940’s, pretty much any American would have understood what that flag represented. But in 2017, a little past the 4th of July holiday, many mistake it for festive décor that we merely forgot to take down. Regardless, the flag stays up. And we pray each day that the stars stay blue. Because those blue stars represent two-thirds of our offspring, now-grown men, who appreciated the sacrifices made for their freedoms to the point that they felt they could do nothing but be willing to make the same sacrifices. We didn’t push them to become Army officers, just as we didn’t push our oldest son to go into the same occupation that I currently am in. We didn’t paint pictures of war being glorious, we shutter at the thought of them being harmed or killed, and dislike not seeing any of them as much as we would like.
But, we are thankful that they understand the cost of freedom. And we are proud that they are willing to pay the price.
We celebrate the 4th of July once a year, but may we daily appreciate our freedom.
Kevin Weaver, CEO of Network211 and father of three sons, lives with his wife KyAnne in Springfield, MO. He enjoys spending time with family, hunting and watching University of Kansas basketball with his boys! He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org