Honoring Memorial Day and Our Fallen Soldiers

Memorial Day is a sacred day for our country, and it holds particular significance for many of our fellow Americans. A widow might pause to recall the moment she realized why the servicemembers had come to her door, a father might sit at a quiet piano where his daughter used to play, and a child might make a poppy poster in honor of a grandparent.

But even if you don’t have a loved one to remember, every person in the United States is affected by the soldiers who have sacrificed their lives for our country. Memorial Day is a time for all of us to take a step back and honor these lives through remembrance.

One way to honor these soldiers is to learn more about their sacrifice and participate in the traditions surrounding Memorial Day. The infographic below includes some information we hope you find compelling.

Memorial Day Infographic 2016 with Memorial Day Facts

The Beginnings – Decoration Day

In early May of 1868, Civil War veteran General John A. Morgan declared that May 30th should be “designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

Though many Civil War remembrances had been previously observed, Memorial Day, known as “Decoration Day” at the time, was first celebrated that same month with a ceremony held at Arlington National Cemetery. There, General James Garfield gave a speech about the holiday’s significance and about 5,000 people participated in decorating all 20,000 graves of fallen Confederate and Union soldiers.

Originally, this day specifically honored those who had died in the Civil War, but after WWI, soldiers who died in any war were recognized. Even though this tradition has been in place since 1868, Memorial Day was not officially declared a national holiday until 1971. It is now observed on the last Monday in May.

Memoral Day began as Decoration Day, Arlington National Cemetery

New Traditions: Going Beyond the Backyard BBQ

Since Memorial Day is a national holiday, most schools and many workplaces have a three-day weekend for their students and employees. Thousands of families gather to usher in the summer season with a good barbecue. (And don’t forget the mattress sales and other flashy commercial events.)

But as fun as this family (and shopping) time is, many organizations worry that this is exactly what Memorial Day has become for many Americans. So in the spirit of never forgetting our fallen heroes, here are some other ways to show respect:

  • Visit a Veterans’ Cemetery or the Grave of a Veteran – Bring flowers, flags, or other significant items, and consider helping beautify the area by clearing away stray leaves or dirt or volunteering to help pull weeds. As specified in the infographic, leaving different coins at a fallen soldier’s grave traditionally signifies who has visited.
  • Wear a Red Poppy – To honor those who have died, many wear a red poppy on their clothing. This tradition was started in 1915 by poet Moina Michael, who wrote: “We cherish too, the Poppy red / That grows on fields where valor led, / It seems to signal to the skies / That blood of heroes never dies.”
  • Pause for a Moment of Silence – In 2000, a congressional resolution officially designated 3pm on Memorial day as a National Moment of Remembrance. Join the country in taking a moment to respect our fallen servicemembers.
  • Visit a Battlefield or Memorial – There are dozens of national battlefields and memorials honoring fallen soldiers and the places where they gave their lives to keep our country united and free.
  • Fly the American Flag – If your flag is on a flagpole, make sure to keep it at half-mast until noon. Or, if you have a mounted flag and it cannot be lowered, you can alternatively tie a black ribbon just under the ornament at the end of the pole. The ribbon should be the same width as the stripes on the flag and the same length as the flag.
  • Learn More about Past Wars and Battles – It might not be possible to travel to a battlefield, but you can read or watch a movie about one in your own home. There are several books, movies, podcasts, and documentaries you can use to learn about or remember different conflicts and experiences.
  • Volunteer to Help Veterans – A wonderful way to honor fallen military heroes is to volunteer. You can find groups that work to help disabled or injured veterans as well as those that focus on the families of current or deceased servicemembers.

Memorial Day Events Worth Experiencing

There are many Memorial Day events that you and your loved ones may want to be a part of. Here are just a few:

  • National Memorial Day Concert – On the eve of Memorial Day, this free concert is held outside the White House to honor military servicemembers. It is one of PBS’ highest-rated programs, with a lineup including performers and groups like Charles Esten, Leona Lewis, the Soldiers’ Chorus, and the National Symphony Orchestra.
  • National Memorial Day Parade – The American Veterans Center presents this parade every year in Washington, DC, honoring military servicemembers that have served throughout all of US history. You can stream the parade live on either YouTube or Military.com.
  • Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally – The Sunday before Memorial Day, hundreds of thousands of bikers ride through Washington D.C. in honor of Vietnam War POWs and MIAs.
  • National Memorial Day Choral Festival – This annual concert includes a large choir that performs with the U.S. Air Force Orchestra.

Remember that there are also smaller Memorial Day events. Check out one of the other big ones—like the Gettysburg Memorial Day Parade or the Chicago Memorial Day Parade—or research what’s happening in your area to find one near you.

Flag waving over stone etched with the words: "In Their Honor"

How Will You Remember?

In 1868, General Logan said, “Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

This Memorial Day, may we choose above all else to honor fallen US troops. How will you choose to remember the “cost of a free and undivided republic” this year? Tell us about your plans by commenting below or visiting one of our social media accounts and commenting on our Memorial Day post.

Follow the Flag to the Mountains’ Majesty

The morning of July 4th was bright even before the sun had crested the mountains encompassing Grove Creek Canyon—perfect weather for a program entitled “By the Dawn’s Early Light.” Just after 7 am, families started filling the trail head, setting up chairs and laying out blankets to watch and listen to the Independence Day program organized by Kyle Fox to honor the service members of the nation and celebrate the country they keep free.

At 7:30, the program began. A color guard composed of members of the military and Boy Scouts of America posted the colors while hundreds of onlookers placed hands on hearts in silent reverence. This was followed by an echoing cannon fire and a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem.

Independence Day Event in Pleasant Grove Utah

Old Glory in Grove Creek Canyon

The day before (Sunday, July 3rd) a procession of walkers and bikers had followed the flag as it was carried up the trail and hung across the canyon. Cords spanning the distance between mountains served as the support system for the main spectacle of the week—the national flag. The Star Spangled Banner unfurled from the cords and rippled in the wind. Its incredible 30-by-60-foot dimensions could be seen from miles away. Throughout the entire week, the flag hangs across the canyon as a standard and is even lit throughout each night by a huge spotlight sponsored by Low VA Rates. On Monday morning, the audience watched in awe as the flag was again unfurled, and they began cheering to see its stripes and stars waving.

These opening performances were followed by a commemoration of veteran and active-duty service members in the audience. A strong spirit of patriotism and respect permeated the group as each of those service members stood (some proudly, others a little hesitantly) before the crowds. To see veterans of the wars we always hear about joining us that day was truly an unforgettable experience. One veteran stood in response to the call for those who served in WWII, and everyone in the audience rose to their feet in yet another standing ovation to recognize this man who had served in a war that affected the entire world.

Giving Words of Thanks for Our Flag

At the conclusion of this commemoration, three speakers came to the mic in turn: Les Langford, Teresa Hunt, and Dennis Adamson. All three spoke passionately about military service, its effect on them, and who their heroes are today. Teresa Hunt, a mother who lost a son to military service, related tearfully the time she first saw the gigantic flag hanging over the canyon the previous year. She told us how she had buried her son under that same pattern. Each of these speakers reminded us of one simple yet hard truth; serving this country means sacrificing, and although the U.S. isn’t perfect, those sacrifices are worth it.

As the event drew to a close, the audience followed along with the lyrics in their programs provided by Low VA Rates to join together in singing My Country Tis of Thee. At the climax of the song, dozens of white doves were released. The birds flew in line with each other out of sight of the group. And this really was an incredible sight as hundreds of people gathered there sang, “Our fathers’ God, to thee, author of liberty, to thee we sing.”

Pleasant Grove Utah Community Contribution

Low VA Rates’ Contributions

Even at the conclusion of the event, people mingled to speak with those who contributed and to those who had served in the military. There were photos and flowers and overall a very strong community presence.
Low VA Rates was happy to contribute to Follow the Flag by providing the program booklets and the spotlight to light the flag at night. We know how important it is to recognize the country’s birthday and those who have fought and dedicated portions or all of their lives to make the country what it is today.

Happy Independence Day!

Proud to be an American July 4th, 2016

Are you proud of the country you live in? Is your country proud of you?

This July marks the 240th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. On July 4th, 240 years ago, our Founding Fathers joined together to declare the United States a sovereign nation independent of England, and at that time, the 13 original colonies united into one country. In the time since the country’s birth, millions of troops have fought at home and abroad to protect everything the nation stands for: freedom, safety, and the pursuit of happiness.

Celebrating Independence Day

Even through controversy, turmoil, and heartache, the country still stands today as a symbol of freedom. On July 4th, the national colors of red, white, and blue fly high in every state as a tribute to that freedom and as a reminder that freedom is never free. Americans everywhere spend time with family and attend Independence Day parades, carnivals, and musical performances. As you roast up hot dogs and enjoy the fireworks this year, take time to remember what matters most. Ask yourself what you are most grateful for. Then ponder where those privileges came from.
Celebrate our country. Remember our troops.

 

RED Friday Giveaway

What Does RED Friday Mean?

 

If you follow hash tags on social media, you may have come across a growing trend: RED Friday. But what is it exactly? What does it mean, and why would anyone want to be a part of it?

Find out what this movement is, and why more and more Americans are becoming a part of it.

Remember Everyone Deployed

RED Friday is a national movement that honors those who serve our country in the United States Armed Forces. RED stands for Remember Everyone Deployed, and they strive to “Honor Through Remembrance.” Organizations and companies nationwide participate in this weekly, and here at Low VA Rates, we wanted in on the fun. As we help veterans secure VA home loans every day, the ideals behind RED Friday went hand-in-hand with our company goals.

RED Friday: Get Involved!

RED Friday Giveaway to Remember Everyone Deployed

 

For a few months now, we’ve been celebrating RED Friday every week, and we want you to celebrate with us! We have created our very own tee-shirts for RED Friday, and one of them could be yours. To win, simply post a picture of yourself wearing red. Be sure to tag @LowVARates and use the hashtag #HonorThroughRemembrance. Various winners will be chosen weekly.

Be a part of this giveaway, but even more importantly, remember those that are serving abroad. We owe so much to them and the brave families to pray for their safe return home. So why not thank them when you can and in any way you can – even if it’s through a small gesture like wearing red on Friday’s?

American Traditions and Gestures Explained

Whenever you visit a new country, do you enjoy learning about all the customs of a new culture – even if they seem a little unfamiliar at first? Something equally interesting is learning about how the citizens celebrate their love and respect for their country. Some of the ways we show respect for our country may seem odd to those who visit the United States, but perhaps a few explanations can help curb the confusion.

But visitors aren’t the only ones who may be confused. In fact, when it comes down to the details of even our most pervasive traditions, many Americans don’t know why we do them. For example, do you know why American soldiers salute with a downward-facing palm? Or why you place your hand over your heart during the Pledge of Allegiance? Find out what it means when you participate in these American traditions!

The US Military Salute: What It Means

Why Do Soldiers Salute with Their Palm Face DownYou’ve probably seen American service men and women salute time and time again, but do you know how it all began and why they continue to do it today?

It is believed that the military salute, placing a hand to the brim of the hat or forehead, originated in Medieval England. Knights raised their visors so that their leaders and fellow knights could see their faces when giving or receiving orders or when talking to each other.

During the Revolutionary War, soldiers were required to remove their hats when talking to their officers and leaders. However, soon their hats became more elaborate and harder to take off swiftly, so touching a hand to the brim of that hat became the saluting custom.

Soldiers in the US military are required to salute with their right hand unless they are holding the flag with it, in which case they salute with their left. Saluting with the palm facing down originated in the Navy, when the palms of the soldiers saluting their officers were dirty due to work on the ship. Saluting with a dirty hand was considered an insult, so in order to show respect, the soldiers turned their palms downwards.

The Pledge of Allegiance: How It Started

If you grew up in the United States, you probably started each school day off by saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Americans learn and memorize the words to this pledge at a very young age. But who wrote this pledge, and how has it changed over time to shape America?

Francis Bellamy wrote the Pledge of Allegiance in August 1892 and it was first published in the Youth’s Companion, a children’s magazine. When Bellamy first wrote it, it read, “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” He didn’t make reference to a specific country because he hoped it would be a pledge used to salute flags in countries all over the world. In 1923, the words were changed to “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America,” making the pledge specific to the U.S.

The words, “under God,” were added by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954. Communism was an ever-present Why Do You Put Your Hand On Your Heart During the Pledge of Allegiancethreat during that time, and President Eisenhower wanted to make it clear that the American nation believed in God.

After he signed the bill finalizing the change, President Eisenhower said, “From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim . . . the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty . . . In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource, in peace or in war.”

When the pledge was first written, Bellamy instructed that citizens reciting the pledge should begin with a right-handed military salute, and after saying “to the flag,” should extend their arms towards the flag. Shortly after the original pledge was written, it was decided that citizens would start with their right hand over their hearts and then extend their arms.

The tradition was changed once again after World War II, when it was believed that extending the right arm towards the flag looked too much like the Nazi salute, and it was decided that citizens should place their right hand over their hearts while reciting the whole Pledge of Allegiance.

The American National Anthem

Finally, think about the national anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner. From ball games to Boy Scouts, this song is played often throughout this nation and nearly every American knows its revered lyrics. How did this song come to hold so much meaning?

Francis Scott Key, an American lawyer, wrote the national anthem on September 14, 1814. America was in the midst of the War of 1812, and the British were attacking Fort McHenry on the coast of Baltimore. Key was in a boat approaching the bay when he saw the fire of the battle lighting up the night. When morning finally came, and the smoke started to clear, Key saw the American flag flying above the fort, signifying that the Americans had won what would be known as the Battle of Baltimore.

Relieved and proud to see his country’s flag, Key poured out his thoughts on paper in a poem called “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Not only did the words of his poem become the American National Anthem, the title of the poem became a popular nickname for the country’s flag.

Today “The Star-Spangled Banner” is sung during religious programs, ceremonies, sports events, and countless other gatherings. While singing or listening to the national anthem, citizens place their right hand over their heart and face the flag. The right hand is placed over the heart for both reciting the pledge of allegiance or singing the national anthem as a sign of love and respect for the United States.

About Low VA Rates

Low VA Rates is proud to serve those who salute, pledge, and sing their allegiance to our country through their selfless and loyal military service. Without you, we wouldn’t have these traditions today! That’s why we try to help in the best way we know how—right at home. For more information on how we can help you secure a VA home loan, or to contact us, please visit our website at www.lowvarates.com.

The U.S. Army Song

Throughout history, music has had an immeasurable impact on cultures all over the world. It is often said that music is a universal language, something that brings people from all walks of life together. The influence of music plays a huge role in day-to-day life, so it’s no wonder that each branch of the armed forces has an anthem of its own. The U.S. Army’s official song has a unique history and a lasting place in American culture. Find out how it came to be such a valued tradition to the men and women who serve in this branch.

Army Song History

Edmund L. Gruber (later to be Brigadier General) wrote a hymn called “The Caisson Song” in 1908 by during his US Army Official Song Historytime as a field artillery first lieutenant stationed at Fort Stotsenburg in the Philippines. Although it wasn’t the Army’s official anthem yet, the lyrics chronicled the daily routines of the horse-drawn field artillery units. In 1917, John Philip Sousa altered the tune of “The Caisson Song” to make it more march-like and upbeat. After the melody was altered, the name was changed to “The Field Artillery Song.”

By 1948, all the branches of the armed forces had an official song except the Army. In order to find an official anthem, they held a nationwide contest but still couldn’t settle on one to fit the bill. Four years later, in 1952, Frank Pace, the secretary of the U.S. Army at that time, asked for another round of composition submissions. From these they chose one called “The Army’s Always There,” written by Sam Stept, to become the official U.S. Army song. It was first performed at President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s inauguration, but the public didn’t like the melody, so it was back to the drawing board.

Ultimately, in 1956, the Army decided to write new lyrics, set them to the tune of Gruber’s “The Caisson Song,” and call it “The Army Goes Rolling Along.” The new lyrics were written by Harold W. Arberg, the adjutant general’s music advisor. The lyrics honored the history of the Army, lauded its present progress, and celebrated its bright future. On November 11, 1956 (Veteran’s Day), Wilber Marion Brucker, the secretary of the army at that time, dedicated the song, and the Army finally had an official anthem of its own.

Singing “The Army Goes Rolling Along”

“The Army Goes Rolling Along” is sung at the end of every Army ceremony, and every soldier is required to sing it while standing. They are typically accompanied by the U.S. Army Band, but sometimes when the band is unable to play, the troops sing a cappella or with a recording. During ceremonies when all the branches of the armed forces are present, they sing their official anthems together in a medley. The Department of Defense established a sequence in which to sing the official anthems when this occurs, and the Army’s song is the first one sung in the medley, followed by the anthems of the Marine Corps, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Coast Guard, in that order. Sometimes, the order is reversed so that “The Army Goes Rolling Along” is the finale of the medley. This is rare and has to be approved by the Department of Defense before it is performed. Civilians are allowed and encouraged to sing the tunes of the armed forces, so long as they sing them in the official order when singing a medley.

The Army Song in Pop Culture

The Army Goes Rolling Along, the US Army SongThis official anthem isn’t just popular in the Army. The melody has been used many times in everyday culture, and the words in the chorus are the most widely known lyrics. In the 1960s, soon after “The Army Goes Rolling Along” became the Army’s official song, Hasbro used the melody in a commercial for their newly released G.I. Joe toys. Twenty years later, in the 1980s, they used the melody again to market the Army Ant toys. In addition to countless other commercials and marketing material, the melody and lyrics have been used in over 40 different movies and TV shows. Even several college fight songs are based on the tune, and North Carolina State University’s fight song is just a sped up version of the melody.
Here at Low VA Rates, we love hearing the official songs of any branch of the military. To learn more about the U.S. military or VA home loans, contact us or visit our website at www.lowvarates.com.

Writing to Your Military Pen Pal

Imagine being far from home in a country you’ve never seen before. You aren’t there to vacation. Your day-to-day responsibilities are demanding and comforts you get in the States are few and far between. Worse, you don’t get to see your loved ones.

Our troops deal with this and more. We benefit every day from the sacrifices these men and women make for us, so it’s no wonder that so many Americans want to give back in some way. Show your gratitude by sending them a note to lift their spirits.

Writing to an American Servicemember or Veteran

How to Become a Military Pen Pal

Emails, Websites, and the Internet

Several groups have set up programs that allow citizens to contact active members of the military through email, chat groups, snail mail, and even through mailed care packages.

In this day and age, we have easy access to various forms of electronics. It’s so simple to connect with a soldier through email, Facebook, or military pen pal chat sites. Sending that “thank you” can be a bright spot in your week and theirs.

Pen Pal Websites

Some sites have different schedules for pen pals that you can choose from. One in particular offers you a choice between contacting a soldier once (often done on holidays) or writing every week for 6 to 12 months. With this longer option, you really get to know the person you are writing to and they get to know you. Many people make strong connections and build lasting friendships this way. And, of course, many veterans will appreciate knowing that their efforts are valued.

Snail Mail

Snail mail adds the personal touch that cannot be sent through a laptop. If you’ve ever received a heart-felt, hand-written letter in the mail, you already know that.

It’s about seeing the loops of each letter g and the curves of the c’s and b’s, knowing that a warm hand took the time to write out each one. Handwriting is unique to each person and makes those written words more meaningful. Other materials, like photos, artwork, etc. can be meaningful as well. Anything that reminds our soldiers what they’re fighting for and what’s waiting for them back home will bring a smile to their faces.

Care Packages

With care packages, you can send all sorts of comforts that troops might not have access to, including candy bars, snack foods, small games, and many other things.Thank a Soldier by Becoming a Pen Pal

There are a few restrictions on what you can send to the field, so it’s important to check first if the items you want to send are allowable.

Many pen pal sites can tell you what is generally permissible, and many of these same sites also offer to send a package for you, which is great if you’re feeling a little indecisive about what to get or you don’t want to go through all the hassle of actually sending something off.

About Low VA Rates

Low VA Rates supports our troops, and we encourage you to take advantage of different pen pal groups. Why not make a difference in someone’s life, especially when that person has already made a difference in yours?

Feel free to share your military pen pal experiences with us in the comments below!

Why the Tragedy in France is an American Tragedy Too

Even in America, This Tragedy Hit Home

Even In the US, This Tragedy Hit HomeAlthough the attacks in Paris didn’t occur on U.S. soil, this tragedy hit home for many Americans – and it hit hard.  From French flag filters on Facebook to moments of silence before Sunday football games, millions of Americans have expressed sympathy for the victims of these heinous acts of terrorism.  That, at least, is clear.  But what isn’t as clear is why so many have taken this tragedy to heart.

Is it because both America and France have such similar histories?  Both the U.S. and modern France were built upon revolutions that began with ordinary people who demanded equality and independence.  The heroes who started these revolutions were among the first who decided that they wanted a free country, even if that freedom cost Why France's Tragedy is an American Tragedythem their lives.  Because both these nations have fought so hard to become countries of freedom and safety, it is especially jarring when our citizens are attacked by those who would like to deprive us of those principles.

Some Americans are the descendants of those who have sacrificed themselves for the sake of our nation.  These martyrs are the reason for our history, our lives today, and our impending future.  Their contribution has given America a heritage as a strong, independent nation.  More than anyone, American soldiers understand that fighting for this country is far more than just fighting for a piece of land.  Fighting for this country is fighting for the fundamental beliefs upon which this country was built.

The attacks on France weren’t just aimed at Paris as a place or at Parisians as citizens.  Those attacks were intended to violate the core values of independence and freedom that both American and French soldiers have fought to protect and died to defend.  Perhaps that’s why these events that occurred on a different continent an ocean away still felt so close and threatening.

Freedom isn’t free, and events like this serve as a reminder of the high price at which it comes.  But these events also serve as proof of what it means to be a free citizen.  It proves that we need the support and protection of our Thank You to Our Troops, Veterans, and Heroesheroes – our men and women in arms.  It proves why we should be grateful for those who have served – our honorable veterans.  Finally, it gives us an opportunity to be both humble and proud.  We should be humbled by the blessings of a free nation, and proud that we’re a part of it.


Remember, Respect, and Appreciate Our Heroes

In light of these attacks, perhaps we should all take a moment to simply remember, respect, and appreciate our service men and women, both past and present.  They are the reason this country still stands.  They are our support and comfort through times such as these.  Without them, we would fall to acts of terror like what occurred in Paris this weekend.  Instead, because of these brave souls protecting us, we will never fall to those who try to take our rights and our American identity.

Thank you to our troops, our veterans, and our heroes.

Remember, Respect, and Appreciate Our Heroes

 

A Celebration to Honor America’s Heroes

As we reflect on our heroes this time of year, there are some facts about our nation that we simply cannot ignore. Perhaps most important for us to remember is the fact that our freedom comes at a price.

Thousands of our soldiers and veterans have given their time, energy, and loyalty to fight for our freedom. They are the ones who paid the biggest portion of that price.

Veterans Day Infographic and Facts

 

You see, that price wasn’t just paid in tax dollars.

Some of our soldiers and veterans paid for it with their health.  Not only do our soldiers face the risk of physical injury for their service, but they also risk their own mental and emotional health.  Do you know how many of our veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?  Do you understand the kind of stress and heartache they endure because of PTSD?  Do you know how it affects them and their families every day?

Some of them paid for it with their lives. Each time their service is needed, some of these men and women will answer their call to duty and never return.  Do you know how many of our Americans didn’t return from overseas this year?  Do you understand the reason they’re not returning was because they sacrificed their own lives so you could keep living yours?  Do you truly appreciate that sacrifice?

And finally, remember the others who have paid a high price: the family, friends, and loved ones of these veterans have felt the burden of this cost as well.  Remember that they have sustained wounds as well.  Remember that they have sacrificed as well.  Remember to thank and appreciate them this holiday as well.

How will you celebrate these heroes on Veterans Day?  You can learn a little more about our soldiers to more fully appreciate their sacrifice with the infographic here, or even visit one of the listed links to show support.

Why We Should All Be Mad About Christmas Music in November

Why Be Mad about Christmas Music in NovemberIt’s the first day of November.  You’re at the grocery store, getting your regular necessities (and maybe some of that on-sale Halloween candy, too).  And that’s when you hear it.  As you casually stroll down the aisle on this beautiful, crisp fall day, you’re suddenly assaulted by an inescapable sound – “Jingle Bells.”

That’s right.  The Christmas fiends are at it again.  Halloween has just passed, Thanksgiving isn’t for weeks, and already they’re pushing this holiday on you like obnoxious a bunch of pesky holiday-invaders.

It’s not that you don’How Can You Celebrate Christmas Before Thanksgivingt like Christmas – it may even be one of your favorite holidays.  But come on – how can you begin to celebrate Christmas before you’ve even had a chance to celebrate Thanksgiving?  We can’t deck the halls and trim the tree before we even carve the turkey!

Poor Thanksgiving receives the short end of the stick way too often.  Metaphorically, it is the “middle-child” of our holidays.  Placed right between Halloween and Christmas, this significant celebration gets overlooked all too often.  Given the fact that this holiday gives us to the opportunity celebrate gratitude itself, it seems rather ungrateful of us to ignore it, don’t you think?  The irony there is almost funny.  Almost.

The good news is, you and a few courageous others have recognized this, and a push-back to defend Thanksgiving and its rightful claim to November has begun.  More and more, you and those who share your indignation are standing up to the big, bad Christmas intruders.  In fact, go ahead to take a minute and pat yourself on the back right now.

And then, try to wrap your mind around this: there’s one holiday that is even more neglected than Don't Forget or Neglect Veterans DayThanksgiving.  Think of it this way.  If Thanksgiving is the “middle child” of the winter holidays, then Veterans Day is more like your forgotten step-cousin.  Although it’s actually far worse than that.  It’s worse than that because this “step-cousin” is the very reason why we have the privilege of celebrating this holiday – or any other holiday.

So why don’t we have this same kind of outrage when comes to overlooking Veterans Day?  In many ways, the sad irony in this situation is even greater than that of Thanksgiving.  Overlooking Thanksgiving means we’re ignoring all our reasons to be grateful; overlooking Veterans Day means we’re ignoring the very reason we have anything to be grateful for.

The brave men and women we’re neglecting aren’t just the reason we can celebrate holidays; they’re the reason we can live freely every day.  They are the reason we have safety and security in our own homes.  They are the very support of America.  So why don’t we take the time to support them – to celebrate them – when this day rolls around every year?Celebrating, Respecing, and Remembering Veterans Day

This year is a chance for all of us to make a change.  This year, let’s recognize the people who make American life a possibility, and do it in the easiest way possible: simply celebrate.  Don’t treat the upcoming Veterans Day like just another Wednesday.  There are so many ways to do this.  You can donate to a charity that supports veterans.  You could call a veteran and thank them for their service.  You could even just spend a few moments in silence to remember what our heroes have sacrificed for you to live another day in a free country.

Don’t forget to appreciate the men and women who served and are still serving to ensure your freedom.  Don’t forget the sacrifices they’ve made and what you have because of it.  Don’t forget to celebrate this Veterans Day.

Don't Forget to Celebrate Veterans Day

 

A Brief History of the American Flag

The American flag goes by many names, including Stars and Stripes, Old Glory, and The Star-Spangled Banner. But its history and symbolism involve much more than the names themselves can convey. As the Flag Code says, “The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.”

We’ve created a brief history of the American flag in the hopes that it inspires more patriotism in all of us. Please enjoy our infographic below and feel free to share it with your friends!

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An infographic titled, "You're a Grand Old Flag: A Few Things Americans Should Know about the Flag." It includes a historical overview, facts about the current flag design, facts about the American flag, a list of holidays when the flag is displayed, flag nicknames, and how to properly dispose of the flag. Full image description below the heading Infographic Text.

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You’re a Grand Old Flag: A Few Things Americans Should Know about the Flag

A Historical Overview

  • January 1776 – Washington orders the Grand Union Flag be hoisted above his base at Prospect Hill.
  • May 1776 – The first American flag is created. Betsy Ross is often credited, but historians think Francis Hopkinson or multiple influences may actually be responsible.
  • June 1777 – The Continental Congress passes the first Flag Act, which makes the design of the flag official.
  • January 1794 – An act of Congress changes the design to 15 stripes and 15 stars after 1795.
  • April 1818 – An act of Congress changes the design to 13 stripes instead of 15, plus one star for each of the states as they are added to the nation.
  • June 1912 – President Taft makes an executive order for the exact proportions of the flag and placement of the stars.
  • January 1959 – President Eisenhower makes an executive order that staggers the stars between rows and columns.
  • August 1959 – The 50-star flag design is selected, which is the longest-standing flag design in the US.

Stars and Stripes: The Current Flag Design

Fun Fact:

A school project that was given a B- grade was what led to the flag’s current design. Robert Heft, a student at the time, was told he could get a higher grade if Congress accepted it as the national design, so he sent it in—and it was chosen, out of more than 1,500 entries sent to President Eisenhower!

  • The flag’s 13 stripes represent the original 13 colonies of the US
  • The 50 stars represent the 50 states

American Colors

  • The red on the flag represents hardiness and valor
  • The white is purity and innocence
  • The blue is vigilance, preservation and justice

Interesting Facts about the American Flag

  • There are two places the flag will never be flown half-staff: in the battlefield and on the moon.
  • The first US postage stamp to feature the American flag as the sole subject was issued on Independence Day in 1957.
  • An upside-down flag is considered a distress symbol.
  • 6 US flags are currently stationed on the moon. These flags were placed by Apollo 11,12,14,15,16,and 17.
  • Only state governors and the president can order flags at government buildings be lowered to half staff.
  • When folded properly, the flag is shaped like a triangle with only the stars showing; and to fold it correctly, you usually make 13 folds–-the same number of original colonies.
  • The flag’s official name is “the flag of the United States of America,” so calling it “the American flag” is actually using a nickname.

Civic Holidays When the Flag Is Prominently Displayed

  • Memorial Day
  • Flag Day
  • Presidents’ Day
  • Veterans Day
  • Independence Day

Flag Nicknames

  • Stars and Stripes
  • The Red, White, and Blue
  • Old Glory
  • The Star-Spangled Banner

Proper Disposal of the Flag

“The flag represents a living country and is in itself considered a living thing.” – US Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8(j)

  • If the flag gets too worn, you can retire it in one of the following ways:
    • By burning it solemnly in a fire (as long as it’s not made of plastics or other materials that will release toxic gases when burned), following protocol
    • By burying it properly in a wooden box
    • By correctly shredding it
    • By recycling it with an organization like American Flag Recycling
    • By taking it to an American Legion post or another organization, whether national or local, that accepts flags and properly disposes of them (such as Boy Scouts or Veterans of Foreign Wars)
    • You don’t need to dispose of the flag if it gets dirty or frayed. It can be washed, or you can trim and sew it!

Things You May Not Know About Memorial Day: History, Facts, & Traditions

Memorial Day may bring family barbecues to mind for many of us, but it has a much richer history and significance than picnics or grills can offer.

The holiday is a sacred day for our country, and it holds particular meaning for many of our fellow Americans who have lost loved ones. But even if you don’t have someone to remember, we’re all affected by the soldiers who have sacrificed their lives for our country. Memorial Day is a time for all of us to take a step back and honor these lives through remembrance.

Read below to learn more about where the holiday comes from, some interesting Memorial Day facts, and traditions you may want to start in your family this year. Feel free to leave a comment below with any Memorial Day information you think should be included!

The History of Memorial Day

The Beginnings

After the Civil War ended in 1865, many Americans visited soldiers’ graves to respectfully decorate them, but there wasn’t a nationwide observance.

However, in 1968, General John A. Logan, Civil War veteran and commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, declared that May 30th should be “designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

That same month, a ceremony was held at Arlington National Cemetery where General James Garfield gave a speech about the holiday’s significance and around 5,000 people helped decorate all 20,000 graves of fallen Civil War soldiers.

Though other Civil War remembrances had been previously observed, this ceremony for “Decoration Day” marked the first time Memorial Day was celebrated.

Becoming What It Is Today

Originally, Memorial Day specifically honored those who had died fighting for the Union and Confederacy in the Civil War, but after WWI, American soldiers who had died in any war were recognized.

New York was the first state to officially recognize Memorial Day in 1873. And because Waterloo, New York was reportedly the first area to have an annual, town-wide service in remembrance of the soldiers, President Lyndon Johnson declared it the official birthplace of Memorial Day in 1966.

Even though the Decoration/Memorial Day tradition had already been in place for a century, Memorial Day was not officially declared a national holiday until 1971. It is now observed on the last Monday in May.

Interesting Memorial Day Facts

Check out some little-known facts about Memorial Day below. Feel free to take these along to your Memorial Day events; you could even use them in a quiz for your loved ones!

A list of Memorial Day facts, including: -Memorial Day is specifically a time to honor those who have died while fighting for our country, while Veterans Day honors all veterans.   -The earliest version of Memorial Day was called Decoration Day, and it was celebrated on May 30th. There are two competing theories for why this date was chosen: 1) There were no specific battle anniversaries on this date, or 2) Flowers would be blooming at that time and could be placed on graves.   -Even though Memorial Day was traditionally held on May 30th, it is now held on the last Monday of May. That’s because in 1968, Congress moved three holidays—including Memorial Day—so they'd always be on Monday, creating three-day weekends.   -The idea for Memorial Day was likely adopted from Southern traditions where women would visit and decorate the graves of the Confederate fallen.   -The South refused to acknowledge Memorial Day until after World War I. Before then, Southern states honored their fallen soldiers on different days.   -Some Southern states still have specific dates to honor fallen Confederate soldiers.   -Multiple places in the US have claimed to have the longest-running or oldest Memorial Day parades, including: Brooklyn, New York; Doylestown, Pennsylvania; and Rochester, Wisconsin.   -The tradition of wearing a red poppy was inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields," written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae in 1915. After reading the poem, American teacher Moina Michaels vowed to always wear a red poppy and wrote her own poem in response, called "We Shall Keep the Faith." She began the tradition of wearing sewn poppies in remembrance of those who died in Flanders Fields, making them for soldiers and becoming known as "The Poppy Lady."

Meaningful Traditions You Can Start for Memorial Day 2019

Since Memorial Day is a national holiday, most schools and many workplaces have a three-day weekend for their students and employees. For thousands of families, it’s a chance to usher in the summer season by spending time together—or go to a mattress sale or another shopping event.

While scoring a great deal might sound fun, it’s not what Memorial Day is about. To make sure our country’s heroes and the sacrifices they’ve made are not forgotten, we encourage you to include at least one or more of the following traditions that honor our fallen soldiers:

Visit a Veterans’ Cemetery or the Grave of a Veteran – Consider volunteering to help beautify the area by clearing away weeds, stray leaves, or dirt. You can also bring flowers, flags, or other significant items to decorate the grave of a fallen soldier. In our infographic below, for example, we explain the meaning of different coins you could leave at the grave to mark your visit.

Wear a Red Poppy – To honor those who have died, many wear a red poppy on their clothing. This tradition was started in 1915 by Moina Michael, who wrote: “We cherish too, the Poppy red / That grows on fields where valor led, / It seems to signal to the skies / That blood of heroes never dies.”

Pause for a Moment of Silence – In 2000, a congressional resolution officially designated 3PM local time on Memorial Day as a National Moment of Remembrance. Join the country in taking a moment to respect our fallen servicemembers.

Involve Veterans in Your Observances – Many veterans have experienced the loss of a fellow soldier, so there may be no better way to honor the fallen than to invite a veteran to your Memorial Day observances or events. You could even ask them if they’d like to say a few words at your gathering—as long as you ask them ahead of time.

These are just a few ways you can honor those who have died serving our nation on Memorial Day. For more tips, look at the infographic above or visit our page on different ways to observe Memorial Day.

Whether you have a classic tradition like wearing a red poppy or you decide to donate to or volunteer with a veteran organization, we’d love to hear about how you observe this Memorial Day.

Memorial Day Events Worth Experiencing

Another way for you and your loved ones to honor Memorial Day is to attend one of many events held across the country. Here are just a few:

National Memorial Day Concert – On the eve of Memorial Day, this free concert is held outside the White House and broadcasted to honor military servicemembers. It is one of PBS’ highest-rated programs, with a lineup including performers and groups like Charles Esten, Leona Lewis, the Soldiers’ Chorus, and the National Symphony Orchestra.

Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally – The Sunday before Memorial Day, hundreds of thousands of bikers ride through Washington, DC in honor of Vietnam War POWs and MIAs.

National Memorial Day Parade – The American Veterans Center presents this parade every year in Washington, DC to honor the members of our military who have served throughout all of US history. You can stream the parade live on either YouTube or Military.com.

National Memorial Day Choral Festival – This annual concert includes a large choir that performs with the United States Air Force Orchestra.

These are a few of the big events happening in the country. For more ideas, visit our post on must-see Memorial Day events.

If you’d like something more local, remember that most cities offer smaller Memorial Day events. Research what’s happening in your area to find something more intimate near your community.

Sharing the True Meaning of Memorial Day

The infographic below includes some information we hope you find compelling about this special holiday. Please feel free to share it with your loved ones to spread the true meaning of Memorial Day:

A Memorial Day infographic with statistics, history, interesting facts, and traditions all related to the holiday.

How Will You Remember?

In 1868, General Logan said, “Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

This Memorial Day, may we choose above all else to honor fallen US troops. How will you choose to remember the “cost of a free and undivided republic” this year?

Tell us about your plans by commenting below or visiting one of our social media accounts and leaving a comment on our Memorial Day post there.

Wife to an Honorable Soldier

The following essay was submitted by Sara Colqui via our Facebook Essay Challenge where we invited our Facebook Friends to submit a short essay sharing “What is your best experience in (or with) the Military?”

Wife to an Honorable Soldier

My husband joined the Utah National Guard when he was seventeen years old, and is a soldier through and through. I met him when he was twenty-one and was okay with his devotion to the military; actually it was quite attractive to me.  He was deployed to Iraq after we had been married only eight months, and that was the biggest trial of my life. I struggled with feelings of him not loving me anymore, and it took a year after he had been home and a verbal commitment not to re-enlist for me to overcome my issues and have my heart realize he really did love me more than the military.

Once I had overcome my issues from his first deployment, I was a seasoned Army wife (and he did re-enlist). Now leads to my best experience with the military. In 2006, David had the opportunity to volunteer to go to Iraq again. He yearned to go and serve his country, and I was okay with that. Our first son was only seven months old when we decided, together, that he would volunteer to leave to Iraq the following May in 2007.

Over the years, I have grown to love my country. I love the values it was founded upon and I love the freedoms I so naively enjoy. I love that our country has the ability to help those who have lived oppressed lives under a tyrant government. Most of all I love that I can stand beside and behind a truly honorable soldier who wants to fight for our freedoms as well as the freedoms of others.

I don’t feel I could be a soldier, but I know I can be a soldier’s wife! I can be his support when life during war gets dark and grim. I can show my love and support for this country by standing beside and behind my soldier. I am so grateful for the opportunity I have to support my husband as he serves as an American Soldier.

Being a wife to an honorable soldier who wants to volunteer for deployment is my best experience with the military.

by Sara Colqui


Joining the U.S. Military

The following essay was submitted by A1C Keshia M. Smedley via our Facebook Essay Challenge where we invited our Facebook Friends to submit a short essay sharing “What is your best experience in (or with) the Military?”

Joining the U.S. Miliary

After brief contemplation, I’ve decided on what my own personal definition of the best experience in (or with) the U.S. Military would be.  I didn’t have to think too long, however, as I honestly believe that joining the U.S. Military would be considered the biggest blessing of my entire life.  Prior to my joining, I was an 18-year-old female without a home, car, or definite plan for life.   I had a decent job but struggled daily to get there by catching rides with friends day after day.  After graduating from High School in 2006 at 17 years old, I decided that I would take a little “break” before going to college.

This break led to a 2-year period of continuous disaster, full of mistakes and personal hurts.  Never the less, I was able to come to my senses and decide that it was time to make a change and do SOMETHING with my life.  I wanted this to be considered “worth” every bit of effort; I had no idea of what was getting ready to become a part of my life story.

On 01 April of 2008, I left all friends and family in Florida for Air Force Basic Training in San Antonio, Texas; since then my life has never been the same.  After 2.5 years of Active Duty service, I constantly make time to sit and reminisce on the past, as well as to dwell on the present. The combination of Service, hard-work, dedication and motivation has led to a number of great things.   I now have a car that runs great, medical and dental benefits, excellent professionalism and job skills, and continuous job security.  Also, I am currently one course away from completing my Associates Degree in Communications, with the Community College of the Air Force.  All of these things would have never been gained in such a quick time period, had I stayed in the same position I was in before enlisting in the Air Force.

There are numerous details that I could write pages about; describing all of the beautiful transformations and understandings I have gained along the journey of my enlistment.  Although I would love to pour all of my appreciation out on paper, I will refrain from doing so.  Instead, I will hold my gratefulness dear to my heart for the rest of my living days.

In closing, I would say that my best experience with the Military would have to be the amazing opportunity to transform my life in a positive aspect.  My exposure to a Military lifestyle has proven to be the best thing that has ever happened to me. I will continue to share my story with others considering the Military, as I am proud to be able to understand what the Air Force motto actually means.

“Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do.”

Sincerely,

A1C Keshia M. Smedley


Meeting Different Soldiers from All Branches

The following essay was submitted by SSG Kendall Goerdt via our Facebook Essay Challenge where we invited all of our Facebook Friends to submit a short essay sharing “What is your best experience in (or with) the Military?”

Meeting Different Soldiers from All Branches

One of my best experiences is all the different soldiers I have met in the United States and Overseas of all branches. It was an honor to work with them and get to know them. You get to know how the other Branches work. I have worked with all the Branches and the best one was the Marines when I was in Iraq; if you needed something they didn’t hesitate at all to make sure you had what you needed to do your job efficiently.

The biggest experience was when I was the convoy commander and going from Anaconda to Ramadi down ASR Lincoln. At about 1200HRS ON 11 MAR. 2007 at GRID 38CLC78430404, about 3.5 CLICKS West of ASR GOLDEN & MSR MOBILE, my M1114 HUMVEE hit an IED.

My driver, gunner and I were able to walk away from the explosion with only a level II concussion. We had to wait there for 6 to 8 hours until EOD arrived and assessed the situation before we could leave. They found a second device that had not gone off. We then headed to Habbaniyah.  The next morning, when I was in Habbaniyah, I was saluted by the Lieutenant Colonel of the Marines that was in command of one of our sections. As I walked into the building, he saluted me. I found out later that he saluted me because he respected me for what I went through and that I was able to walk away from it.

Remember:  “A veteran – whether active duty, retired, national guard, or reserve – is someone who, at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to The ‘United States of America’, for an amount of up to and including my life.”

And Freedom isn’t free it is bought and paid for by the BLOOD of our Soldiers

by SSG Goerdt, Kendall


Blessed by my Military Background

The following essay was submitted by Kara Kresser via our Facebook Essay Challenge where we invited our Facebook Friends to submit a short essay sharing “What is your best experience in (or with) the Military?”

Blessed by my Military Background

I am blessed to come from a huge military background. My grandparents met during WW2 and were married (in uniform none the less) all my uncles on my mom’s side have served and a few on my dad’s side. My dad tried to join but was denied due to his asthma. I also have several cousins who are serving one who just returned and a great uncle who was MIA in WW2. Growing up in a military family such as mine, you learn several things. You learn to respect the country, the flag, those who have served, those serving, those who have been injured and those who never came home. You learn that even if the President is not in the party you normally vote for you respect him and his choices because that is what is expected of you. I mention that my uncles have all served and one of them from my mom’s side lost his legs in Vietnam. He is in a wheelchair and has severe burns on his face. You learn early on that serving is not just for fun. You respect the fact that most if not all of the soldiers are fighting for our country because they choose too. They choose to leave their families and protect ours. You learn how hard it is for those families who understand why their loved one is over there but that they do not have constant communication. So in short, what the military has done for me? It has taught me to respect and have empathy for those who are serving and who has loved ones serving! God Bless the USA.

by Kara Kresser

Singing the Songs of the Military

The following essay was submitted by Cassie Adams via our Facebook Essay Challenge where we invited our Facebook Friends to submit a short essay sharing “What is your best experience in (or with) the Military?”

Singing the Songs of the Miliary

I was recently in a show called We the People. It’s a patriotic musical and made me feel proud of America. What’s more, is at the end we saluted all the men and women who have served this country, singing their ‘theme song’ as they stood for all to see. It was an amazing opportunity for me, and I still sing those songs whenever I recognize a flag of the US military.

by Cassie Adams

Why I Love Living in Patriotic Utah

I have lived in Utah for the past 16 years and love it here.  I have to tell you though, my roots are back in the midwest in the great state of Ohio!  That is right; I grew up in good old Buckeye land and then moved to Utah in my college years and have lived here ever since.

I could write all sorts of paragraphs and pages on why I love living in Utah, but I won’t bore you today with all of that.  What I want to share however, is why I think this state is great and primarily as it relates to pride in one’s country and patriotism.

Just two days ago I had the opportunity to hit up one or Utah county’s Mexican grocery markets; which is one of the reasons I love living here.  We have a great Latin culture among us and some great food.  While visiting this market I was accompanied by a childhood friend from Ohio who actually lives out here too.  As we were driving to the market he asked me, “Have you ever noticed how many American flags there are in this state?”  We had just drove by a car dealership (Ford-American made, I mind you) and right smack in the front of the dealership was an American flag that was bigger than most state capitol flags!  I concurred with my buddy that yes I was aware and that I loved it!

I explained to him that in my neighborhood along with many other communities in Utah, that I had paid $30 in a donation to the Boy Scouts of America and in return the scouts hung a flag in my front yard on all US holidays.  I told him there was nothing better than driving home at night and seeing literally 30-40 houses all sporting and honoring the American flag.  My friend said that is was a major contrast to his time in San Francisco, CA.  The cool thing is that my friend who I feel leans a bit left when it comes to political views, had nothing negative to say about all the flags!  He did not necessarily trash talk his time in CA but mentioned you would never see that there.

So is the fact that Utahns sport the American flag a reason to live here?  Sure it is; this is just one example of the extreme patriotism that exists here.  Now if you don’t like seeing US flags everywhere, then don’t move here.  I love this great country and I love Utah.  If I were a retired military veteran or active duty service member and I had the chance to move to Utah, I would do it!

I am the branch manager for Low VA Rates and my loan officers specialize in Utah VA Loans and Utah VA mortgages, so let us know if you do move here or are already living in Utah.

PS,

From my office window right now I have the pleasure of seeing 3 businesses flying the US Flag!  Love it!

Why I am grateful for the service of our troops!

I have often wondered why someone would willingly leave behind their families, their friends— basically their life—to serve their country. Why would someone “volunteer” to get deployed for a year or two and put themselves in such danger? A lot of troops serve their country way beyond that time span. Others for their entire life. I have concluded that their bravery, their honor, and their vision and sacrifice for America and our freedom runs deeper than a lot of people can comprehend. I believe soldiers have such a profound gratitude for the freedom of our Nation and their loved ones that they can’t help but serve our country.

I have also tried to imagine what life would be like if we couldn’t enjoy the freedoms we have. What if it didn’t exist in our country? What if we didn’t have men and women who were willing to enlist in the army today? It would be a disservice to those veterans who served in the past, who fought for their lives and freedom with many dying in the process.

I’m in awe when I think of the soldiers who trust in and rely so heavily on those they serve with. Their lives lie in the hands of the person next to them. I’m amazed at the strength and resilience of these forces. Their unity must be a great thing to experience, just as we citizens of our country must be united and take care of each other. We too must do our part.

I believe in Freedom. I believe in the right to choose. I believe in self-government, the right to bear arms in self defense, and free conscience. The right to free speech, a fair trial, and to assemble. I believe in the right to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor and to provide nature’s necessities. I believe in a United Country (hence, the “United States of America”). I believe in our Soldiers to help us accomplish and sustain this. I also deem that we as citizens have certain duties we are held to—both public and private. Such duties include not stealing, being honest in all our doings, abide the laws of the land, to provide for and protect our families, and of course to help those who are less fortunate, in need and sick. We as citizens need to become economically independent. We need to participate in our society, vote, volunteer, and be family-oriented. Doing these things will help our soldiers keep our country strong and standing. They can’t do it alone.

In today’s world it is starting to become more real to me the way our government and economy is going. And I, like many others, have had an awakening of how truly grateful I am for those men and women who are willing to stand and fight those who dare take our liberty and our rights from us. It has taken me a while to understand what independence means to me personally, but I am now forever changed by it. My appreciation for the thousands and millions of troops who serve now and who have served in the past runs deep. We need to show this appreciation more, not just on Veteran’s Day. They need and deserve that.

I am so proud to be an American. We are all truly blessed to live in this great country. Our soldiers, airmen, marines, and sailors are a force for good in the world. This really is the land of the free because of the brave. Let’s not forget that. I am grateful for troops who protect our freedom, who create our freedom, and who support our freedom.

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