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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fourth of July: Happy Birthday & Thank You, America

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?”

“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:
Sure, things aren’t perfect, but after driving across the United States five times (and counting), staying at least one night in thirty-five states and interviewing dozens of military service members, firefighters, police officers and EMTs, I can’t think of another place I want to live.

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...


Melanie said...

That was a wonderful post...either my eyes are dry from my contact or I got a little teary. (Especially at that little tattered flag...) OK. I gotta get ready for a parade. Stop by Friday when I post pictures of the festivities. And Happy Fourth to you!!

DL Hammons said...

Dude....what an awesome post! I've only been outside the US to Canada a couple times, but I can honestly say I have never taken what we have here in the U.S. for granted! We have our faults, but on our worst day we can point to people like you who have CHOSEN the American dream, and say that's what we're all about!

Thank you for the reminder!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Amen! This is awesome, Mark. Your answer to that guys is so right. Most people who trash this country have never visited let alone lived in another country. I've lived in several foreign countries and America still has the best deal. We are truly free here.
Happy Fourth, Mark!

Morgan said...

Ohhhh... Look at you capture the spirit. This is really special, Mark. Thanks for this... And the finding the Veteran buddy story breaks my heart... that place is amazing, yes? Oh... it KILLS me!

And yes, we NEED to hear about you almost getting kicked out story!

And I love the all-american feeling that baseball brings... so cool with Wrigley Field! (And just as American eating the hot dog in NY)

Love it.

Jaycee DeLorenzo said...

Beautiful post, Mark. :D

Kirsten said...

What a great thought for today!

I am always grateful that can sit here and read and comment on a fellow American's words, and that I am free to write the words that are in my heart. Our forefathers died to protect this freedom, and it is one I will always treasure and defend.

I spent a year abroad, and travelled extensively, but coming home is like nothing else. It really does give one perspective on all the greatness that is all around us here in the US. That you've come from another country to call this place home is truly heartwarming.

Happy Fourth of July!

Hope Roberson said...

It's so great to hear this! I'm afraid living here my whole life makes me forget what the USA is sometimes. Thank you for sharing your perspective :) One of my favorite things about teaching is the beginning of the day when the class does the flag salute, especially the little ones, it's awesome to be part of it. Happy 4th!

loverofwords said...

I have the same song of Lee Greenwood's on my post, Mark. And I included a bit of the Declaration of Independence as well. Being first generation, American Russian, I remember how proud my parents were to become American citizens. Did you listen to Denis Prager today?

Melissa said...

That song always gives me chills. Great post. :)

Lara Schiffbauer said...

Wow! That is similar! Did you have some psychic moment where you heard my thoughts? :)

I love Mount Rushmore. I grew up around there, and when I took my kids there when they were 3 & 2, I was so touched at how beautiful and monumental it really is.

Happy Fourth of July to you and yours, as well. And, in case you don't get my reply (over there), I think we (in the US) are quite lucky to have gotten such a fine citizen! :)

Leigh Covington said...

Mark! This is amazing. So heartfelt and well... just perfect! My dad was made an American citizen on July 4, 1997. Amazing moment! They even interviewed him on tv. But one of the best moments I've experienced was watching my sons 2nd grade class perform an American appreciation program. It was amazing!

Happy 4th of July Mark! So glad you're part of this great country and I've had the opportunity to get to know you.

Bonnee Crawford said...

A great 4th of July post Mark, have an awesome day!

Elizabeth Seckman said...

You're the kind of American that built America. You may be more American than half the people born here. Red, white, and blue knuckle bump good buddy!

cleemckenzie said...

Wow! Mark that was an amazing post. I have been outside the US. In fact, I've lived outside it. You're so right about needing that perspective to really appreciate what we have here.

I'm giving you another round of applause.

Unknown said...

What a fantastic 9th anniversary memory! I loved your post -- it was so meaningful. Thanks! :-)

Maurice Mitchell said...

Mark, you gotta tell a story about your Irish accent going through customs. I'll bet it's classic!
- Maurice Mitchell

The Geek Twins | Film Sketchr

Emily R. King said...

Having been born in Canada and become a citizen of the US, I wholeheartedly agree with you. There's no place like the good ol' U.S. of A!

Carrie Butler said...

Mark, you are what is right in this world. :)

Bonnee Crawford said...

P.S - You got an award over at my blog. :)


Nicole said...

I echo Carrie! This is a wonderful, moving post - thanks for giving us this amazing perspective. Sometimes it's so easy to forget these things. :)

Susan Oloier said...

What a great post! I was born in Chicago, and even I haven't been to a Cubs game at Wrigley field. Makes me want to go.

nutschell said...

COngratulations! HOpe you celebrated that awesome milestone. Still waiting on a US citizenship myself so I know how you feel. :)

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