Happy 236th Birthday, America!It’s Independence Day (and Insecure Writer’s Support Group day) but I’d like to share what the Fourth of July means to me – an Irish immigrant who became a naturalized citizen nine years ago – yesterday (July 3.)
For the actual ceremony, my wife wore her Navy dress whites uniform, hoping that, as an officer, she could swear me in, but there were 2,700 new citizens, so a judge was in charge!
I’ll never forget when he stood up to give us a round of applause as he officially welcomed us as the nation's newest Americans.My wife’s parents brought patriotic balloons and gave me a red, white and blue lei, which I wore at work, and all the way until midnight on the Fourth :)
Many have asked why here?Why America?
In response, I had a long winded, verbal “blog post,” until one night a light went off as I turned the question on this one dude.
“Have you ever been outside the States?”“No…”
“OK, well then, you’d never understand. Go visit somewhere else, and when you come back, we can talk.”
If you’ve never been out of the USA, you can’t understand what it means to come back to the land of the free, and the home of the brave.
|I found this little, tattered flag after 9/11. I can't get rid of it...|
(Embedded as a reporter on a trip to Haiti for several days, the first thing I did upon returning (even before showering,) was kiss Old Glory as she waited in the garage for the next sunrise. Then, I thanked God and counted my many, many blessings.)
(That’s how I still feel, but I can’t imagine how awesome it must be for each and every service member who comes home from a deployment…)
I LOVE showing my American passport when I go through Customs, especially in Ireland, because I still have a wee bit of the Oirish accent, and it always throws the officer off for a few seconds… ;)
So, while millions consider themselves Irish-American, I know I’m American-Irish.
As I live my version of the American Dream, some “firsts” (in +/- chronological order) I will never forget include:
· Being interviewed by an armed Federal Agent at Dulles Airport (about thirty minutes after I landed) due to a clerical error – on my part :)
· Getting nearly kicked out of the country until above error was found to be legit. (That tale is a post all of its own J)
· Seeing the Stars and Stripes flying outside someone’s house in Fairfax, Virginia.
· Watching and moving away as an old Veteran found his buddy on the Vietnam Wall…
· Getting my first driver’s license in Key West, Florida (the tester was heavily pregnant... I don't think I drove over 13 mph...)
|Road Trip: Chicago to first CA Sunset, 2000|
· Going to my first ballgame at Wrigley Field in Chicago. (It’s all about the BleachersJ)
· Travelling through the Badlands of South Dakota and marveling at Mount Rushmore.
· Flying the flag the day my wife and I moved into our first home in Florida.
· Surviving four major hurricanes in six weeks (Summer 2004, in “sunny” Florida…)
· Voting for the first time (as I drove my Mustang down the street, I had the windows down and Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA cranked up J)
· Freezing my butt off at Niagara Falls.
· Hearing a group of kids recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Cocoa Beach, Florida.
· Holding my first ever published magazine article in Newport Beach, California.
· Watching the birth of No. 1 Son in San Antonio, Texas.
· Eating my first hot dog from a street vendor in New York City.
· Getting goose bumps seeing the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
· Enjoying my first bottle of Samuel Adams in Boston.
· Scared out of my wits at the Grand Canyon (yes, I climbed out onto one of those rock ledges…)
Things I Miss and People I Wish I’d Known:
· Watching Congress live in 1996 – without the hassle of uber security procedures.
· The Twin Towers.
· The young Marine Sgt. and U.S. Army Capt. whose family members I interviewed after the pair died in separate incidents during the war in Iraq.
· What Joplin, MO, must have looked like prior to the tornadoes that took more than 150 lives in 2011.
America the Brave:
My heart swells with pride when I hear the good we do, and my knees buckle at the horrors we commit against one another, but still, there is no place like home…
There’s no place like home… no place like home...