I started this post with a picture of my Grandpa Larsen. Today is his 85th birthday - - Happy Birthday Grandpa!
It is very fitting that I write this post on his birthday. After all, when I think of patriotic people, he is one of the first people that come to my mind.
He is a veteran of World War II. He wasn't old enough to join the armed forces until the very end of the war, but he enlisted in the Air Force as soon as he could. If I remember right he was trained to be a right gunman on a B-29. As he told me once, by the time he got out there, the war was pretty much over and he mostly did "clean up work", as he called it. It was still dangerous, though. I remember him telling me about one time when he and a fellow airman were walking through a field surrounding an airbase (I believe in the Philippines) and all the sudden there was an explosion under the feet of his buddy. He has stepped on a land mine that hadn't been disturbed during the war. It injured the man pretty good, he was covered in blood. Grandpa picked him up and carried him back to the base to get help. Once the man was being helped, Grandpa sat down and looked down at himself to find he, too, was covered in the other man's blood. Then he fainted. :) (This is the part of the story where Grandma interjected with tales of how Grandpa would always faint at the sight of blood, so easily, in fact, that he couldn't even be in the delivery room when their children were born). But Grandpa said that time at the air base was different. It was one of those moments when adrenalin and duty to a fellow soldier kicked in and you just did whatever need to be done. I love that story. Grandpa is one of my heroes, and I love the example of patriotism that he has always shown me.
I love the Fourth of July! I think it ties with Christmas as my favorite holiday, but for some reason, I find the Fourth of July to be the hardest holiday to be away from the home, family, and community I grew up with. And this year, I finally figured out why.
Growing up, our holiday traditions evolved over the years. They were always fun and memorable, but they were not necessarily the same year after year. Except for our Fourth of July traditions, they were always the same.
This Fourth, Bryan was asking me what I had done on this holiday in the past, and I realized that every year in my memory, we did the exact same thing. It was small town, full of family, and patriotic. Fireworks with family, blaring "I'm coming to America" from the radio. Small town Parades, hot dog BBQ's by my Uncle Corey, the best hot dog griller around. Food, volleyball, and swimming in the river up the canyon. The same exact thing year after year, the only change being that the crowd that joined us grew larger from year to year. Even my poor volleyball skills stayed the same, year after year!
Then we moved to Texas and I have found that the Fourth of July is the day I have the hardest time not being "home." We are working on some new traditions of our own though, and they are good, just take some getting used to. After all, 28 years is a long time to do the same thing year after year. :)
So here is what we did this year:
We started with a flag raising, bike parade, and lunch at the church. We were a small group gathered, but I love seeing the flag raised and seeing everyone decked out in their red, white, and blue. It is a sight that always thrills my heart a little!
we went to the Zoo and the Science Museum.
I struggled with this a bit, becuase while we had a great time, it didn't seem like a Fourth of July-y activity. I almost felt like I was being a bit irreverant...like because it didn't involve a flag or a hot dog BBQ, it wasn't appropriate for the holiday!
All fireworks shows in the area had been canceled due to the drought conditions, so we ended the night by trying to watch fireworks shows people had posted on you tube...not quite the same as the real thing!! But you know, it was still a really great Fourth, and we had a great time as a family. My kids still wore their red, white, and blue, and they still got to put their hands over their hearts and pledge allegiance to our flag. And I discovered something:
A love and allegience to this country can still be passed on from generation to generation, even without fireworks and hot dogs. It's what I teach my kids about being patriotic everyday, not just one day a year, that really matters.
We LOVE America!!