Happy Birthday, America

I love living in Munster, Indiana at this time of year.  Actually, I like living here just about any time of year, but particularly around Independence Day.  It is the small-town America that you see in the Chevy ads, and its activities and decorations make it a joy to live here.

Somehow it seems the whole region gets decked out in red, white, and blue, with flags hung from porches and banners fluttering along the main streets.  Little kids still decorate their bikes and trikes with flags and crepe paper, and families still line the streets for the parades.

And what parades they are.  First come the firetrucks and police cars with their sirens waling and their horns blaring.  Then the politicians in the convertibles tossing out Tootsie Rolls and Laffy Taffy to the kids lining the route.  Marching bands playing patriotic tunes follow with the flag team tossing their banners high.  The crowd still stands and applauds when the VFW honor guard passes, but I notice most of the gentlemen ride now because they can no longer walk so far.  I tear up every time I see this group, smaller each year, thinking of my dad and all of the WWII vets that are no longer with us.

This year was the first without my dad, who loved to come with us to picnic in the park while we waited for the fireworks, and who always stood up as the veterans passed by in the parade even when he struggled to do so.  He proudly wore his Navy baseball cap during these events, and I can still see him smiling and tearing up when things turned particularly patriotic.  I find I do the same thing these days.  More and more, I tear up at anything that’s moving or inspiring.   Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s that things are more precious to me than ever.  I don’t know.

What I do know is that I love Midwest America around this time of year.  I love the fireworks, I love the community concerts in the park, I love the little league kids on the parade floats, and I love the spirit of freedom and gratitude that seems to seep out of the very pores of this region.

May God bless America and keep us safe and free.

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