Err in the direction of kindness.
- George Saunders
When I was growing up, the Fourth of July holiday meant large family picnics in my grandmother's back yard. We feasted on grilled hamburgers and Mom's potato salad.
Afterward, we’d move to the park and watch the fireworks, set against a midnight black sky and accompanied by the strains of patriotic music.
It was the perfect mid-summer break, but nothing more.
As young parents of three growing boys, we continued to celebrate the Fourth in much the same way. Then the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 changed our perspective.
As a family–and a nation–we were reminded just how much we had to celebrate in this great country…and just how quickly it could be taken from us.
Fast-forward to the first Fourth of July after our oldest son's enlistment in the Marine Corps. That fact changed the focus of this holiday for us forever.
The patriotic music still rings loud, but the stirring strains now bring tears to my eyes. The fireworks are just as glorious, but the explosions seem to represent the echoes of war fought on distant shores. When I think of the birth of this country, I can’t help but remember the sacrifices made by so many.
For me, the price of freedom can now be quantified. I see it in the kiss of wife sending a husband away on deployment, or a mother watching her son leave for war–none of them certain their soldier will return.
It's found in the sacrifice of a young man, still in high school, who's willing to fight for our for freedom by joining the Army. It's in the tears of a father who proudly watches as his daughter graduates from Marine Corps boot camp.
The Fourth of July is no longer just a pleasant summer break. It's forever linked to honor and sacrifice. These people are my friends, my community, my support, and the hope of the future.
I've watched as these scenarios have played out before my very eyes. In my heart, the phrase, the home of the free and the brave is illustrated by the face of my son–and thousands of sons and daughters like him–who were willing to put it all on the line for our freedom.
So this Fourth of July, think about those who inspired that stirring music and whose willingness to serve made it possible to celebrate. Take time to say a prayer for those who serve and those who love them.
Edie Melson is a leading professional in the publishing industry. She also knows what it’s like to send a loved one off to war. Her oldest son went from high school graduation, to Marine Corp boot camp, to Iraq; where he served two tours fighting on the front lines as an infantry Marine. Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home When Your Soldier Leaves for Battle, is Edie’s heart project. Look for her two newest books for military families debuting in 2014: While My Son Serves and While My Husband Serves. You can also connect with Edie on Twitter and Facebook.