I wrote the following email to my friends back home, while I was living in Wiesbaden, Germany, just a few days before flying home for a visit. In celebration of our cherished independence, I’d like to share it with you now. I wrote this email on July 4, 2002, just a few months after the September 11 attacks. Read on…
I guess the 4th of July has always been one of my favorite holidays. There’s no stress or pressure associated with it. Rich kids and poor kids enjoy the holiday in basically the same way. Just some simple fun, burgers on the grill, badminton or horseshoes, maybe a parade, and always fireworks. You don’t have to be wealthy or educated or chic or refined to do the 4th of July. It’s not a Christian holiday or a Jewish holiday. No major expenses threaten to send families into bankruptcy. Suicide rates don’t triple, hearts aren’t broken, dreams aren’t shattered. It’s a holiday that is just fun. And everybody gets to play.
This 4th of July, it seems we all have more reason to celebrate our independence, and our national unity. September 11th brought us closer together as a nation, and I think many of us are looking forward to a national celebration after that tragedy.
Living overseas, one feels an even stronger urge to celebrate one’s Americanism, and to share one’s pride with the many other Americans living away from home. For this reason, I have always enjoyed the Independence Day celebrations that the US military puts together for the troops overseas. In past years, when we lived in Belgium and Italy, we were treated to a real, down-home, American festival that would rival the best county fairs in the states. Carnival rides, cotton candy, arcade games, pony rides, and of course, fireworks. You could throw a baseball and dunk the high school principal. Tug-o-war and sack races were arranged to include every member of the family. And the military bands would play. It was a taste of home and it was enormous fun.
Our local base is hosting a smaller less conspicuous party. No rides, no parade, no dunking the principal, but they’ll have sack races and horseshoes, and the whole American community will be there. We’ll have burgers and hot dogs on the grill and the night will end with fireworks. And when the band plays the national anthem, the men and women in uniform will stand, and salute, and make us proud. And when they play “Stars and Stripes Forever”, we will sway to the beat and enjoy our solidarity. And when they play “America the Beautiful”, it will touch our hearts, and we will think of home, and we will remember 9-11, and why we are all here anyway.
And then we’ll go home. We’ll say good night to our friends and co-workers and we’ll climb in our cars and we’ll drive home. And that drive home, through the streets of Wiesbaden, will be sad. Because we will be thinking of home, and it’s not a place we can drive to. On that night, home will mean America, and we will wish we could hop a plane and be there.
Paula and I will hop our plane on July 6th. See you at home.