Is this a great country or what?

Published 11:24 am Saturday, June 29, 2013

“You’re a grand old flag,

You’re a high-flying flag,

And forever in peace may you wave.

You’re the emblem of

The land I love,

The home of the free and the brave.

Every heart beats true

‘neath the Red, White and Blue,

Where there’s never a boast or a brag.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

Keep your eye on that grand old flag!”

— George M. Cohan

I hope those lyrics make you smile as much as they do for me. Remembering and writing the lyrics to that song came quite easily to me because it was one of the first patriotic songs I learned in elementary school. If memory serves, the time I first heard it was in the late 1960s. That’s when my parents, brother and I were living in housing on Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, where dad was stationed.

We lived in a two-bedroom, pink brick home (no jokes, please) along a curved line of houses alternately colored. White, pastel green, cream and blue were the other choices. Red was apparently out of the question even in those post-Joe McCarthy years, and purple was just not done.

Even now I can mentally retrace the route I would take by foot or bicycle to school. Leaving my house I could turn left or right along the horseshoe-shaped path that led to the street that ran in front of the hospital. A left turn there took me to a larger road, or so it seemed, and then past one of the airplanes mounted on a field of green grass to the right. A quick turn to the right and then left where the movie theater was located across from the community center, and then it’s a straight shot to the school. Sometimes the classroom seemed so far away, and other times I was there before I knew it.

I loved school and my first-grade teacher. Though her name, sadly, escapes me to this day, she became one of those many teachers for me that I treasure for how well she taught, and helped instill a love of reading that lasts to this day.

Michael, my brother, who is younger, and I needed for nothing. We had food, clothes, shelter, books, toys and love provided by our parents.

We all four were further secured by the air force base. The women and men, like my dad, were vigilant in the country’s defense.

At the time of which I write, Independence Day meant grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, hand-cranked ice cream and, of course, fireworks. Even today I marvel at how people can create those colors and patterns. They’re breathtaking when you really stop to think about it.

So much has happened since then that has made me and you aware and grateful of how blessed…yes, that’s the right word…blessed we are to be Americans.

Would that Edward Snowden felt likewise. I won’t judge him yet a traitor, but right now he’s certainly a fool. I hope he comes to his senses.

I genuinely hope that you don’t find this week’s column to be sappy. My teeth usually ache when I read things that are overly sentimental. Even my fingers seem to know not to type tripe. But after careful thought and half a glass of lemonade, the words flowed. Perhaps the fingers knew I was telling the truth in this writing, and so can close with saying, “God bless America.”

STEPHEN H. COWLES is a staff writer at The Tidewater News. He can be contacted at either 562-3187 or