July 2, 2009

'Tis of Thee


My neighborhood is echoing with explosions.

On the way home tonight, the sky was a gorgeous purple-blue. A huge fireworks show lit up the apartment complex my brother plans to use for poker games soon. I veered off to a country road and watched them. Then I watched a sheriff pull in front of me and speed down the parking lot.

I don't think about things as much as I should. But recently, I spoke with a solider who is now home after spending three years in Iraq. He told me at a local fireworks display this past week, he stood in the bleachers with his girlfriend and a friend of hers. While everyone stopped for the National Anthem, this girl texted, laughed, and snapped her gum...and he wanted to snap her neck, he told me. After everything he'd done-orders he followed, even if he didn't agree-it was infuriating to him to watch. He pulled her aside afterwards and asked her to have more respect.

Maybe it's hard though-to respect, I mean. All of us are grateful to have the freedoms we do, but it's such a vague concept, like the rows of flags I passed tonight, stuck in the neighborhood yards and taped with names of soldiers. We're taught to admire them for what they do, but we see little or none of it, so it flutters away like many good intentions. The difference now is that I know some of these men very well. Hearing things like 'troop surge' or 'soldiers killed' isn't just a news story that fades into the background of a conversation. It's something that makes my stomach sick. When I think of the guys over there, I can't think of them as a collective mass any longer. I think of two boys. My hope is that everyone reading this does, too.

My brother got on his laptop camera last night. He made great efforts to tell me the awards were not a big deal...then one by one, he held up certificates and medals for me to see, running his finger along the pages to point out certain words. He hated when he was thanked for his service while he was home. It made him uncomfortable. He considers it his job, and he does his job. I don't think it even requires patriotism to feel a swell of pride knowing that there is a 4th of July because 1% of the population is doing what the other 99% can't or won't do.

When Andy was little, he would ride in the parade, the same one that is now just down the street from my house. We would sit on top of the firetruck in the scorching midday sun, and my dad would steer the huge engine down the road. Lights would flicker, we'd wave our hands and our flags, and Dad would yell at us to put on headphones when he would turn on the wailing sirens and horns. Later that night, Andy would see the fireworks set off near the Assembly Hall. We'd lie down in the grass or on a picnic blanket, and comment on how great that one was, pointing, laughing. He'd twirl the double cowlick in his hair and glow. His birthday is the 4th of July. In his mind, the whole day-the parade, the candy thrown, and the fireworks-was for him.

This year, it is. Happy Birthday, Andy.

1 kind comments from you:

Nicholereo333 said...

awwwh sweet...HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

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