For years Independence Day meant a weekend at the lake with the family, podgy pies, popsicles, tubing, and Mom anxiously watching her boys light fire work, hoping for the best. But now as a Military spouse fortunate enough to spend the Fourth with her husband, thinking of all those families who do not, my locale doesn’t really matter anymore. Although here in Virginia, surrounded by our country’s history, I can’t help but reflect upon the struggle our country has been through to become and remain the United States of America. Here I am, living just miles from George Washington’s boyhood home and beloved Mount Vernon, and a few short hours away from Yorktown, where the British surrendered to him in the last battle of the Revolutionary War. It is impossible to escape the constant reminder of the struggle of our Founding Fathers to create a country rooted in democracy and lead with dignity.
The Revolutionaries battled to become the United States of America and less than 100 years later, America was nearly split again by its own Civil War. As a lover of history, it is surreal to me to spend mornings treading the steps Lee’s Confederate line at Fredericksburg on my favorite jogging path, or imagining the struggle of Grant’s men as they crossed the Rappahannock to take the town, while crossing the bridge on my way to work. On a drive after dusk, I can see the modern depiction of the flag rising at Mount Suribacci as the “steeple” of the National Museum of the Marine Corps rises over the trees, I get chills every time.
As if those reminder aren’t enough, I keep a portrait in my living room of General Washington, kneeling beside his horse in prayer at the Battle of Valley Forge. Nearby, a picture of Lincoln, worn by his short term as president in the midst of war. I’ll be honest though, nothing reminds me of the cost of freedom like that scent that lingers long after a deployment is over. After many washes, multiple dryers sheets, that smell of the desert just won’t subside. For those of you who don’t live with someone in the military this probably sounds strange. Although I call it the “Iraq smell,” I’m sure the wives of men at war in Afghanistan, Korea, Vietnam, Japan, France, Germany….know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s the scent of the blood, sweat, and tears that went into those long months of sleepless nights and constant awareness, all so that we would remain safe in our homes, miles away from the frontlines.
For the men and women in Afghanistan and Iraq, those protecting our U.S. Embassies and borders, this just another day at work. So in the midst of our day devoted to boats, beer, and burgers, spend a moment giving thanks to the men and women working right now so that we can relax and enjoy our freedom…miles away from the frontlines.