I'm a military veteran. I didn't go the long haul, but I did eight years in before marriage to a fellow Navy sailor made me decide to leave. I believed that if we wanted to have a family, that only one of us could really be in without putting too much pressure on children. Sometimes I regret leaving, sometimes I don't.
My husband was Navy until last year. My father was Navy, and so was my brother. There's a bit of a legacy there and holidays that are, in some way, a celebration of what our country or military has accomplished or been through are important to me. The 4th of July is meaningful because I know that, like men and women before me, I would have given my life for the welfare of others without hesitation. I recognize this day as a celebration of all of those who came before and will come after. I honor those who have been lost in the quest to create a safer world and support the freedom of our citizens. I know some people don't feel that way and I respect their choice to feel that way.
Beyond the military aspect, the 4th of July was always my favorite holiday. Yes, I liked it better than Christmas or my birthday or anything else going up. The reason for that was my father who passed away six years ago this coming October.
My daddy made the 4th an outrageous extravaganza of fun. I don't think I was ever afraid of fireworks -- something I probably should have been -- because of the way we celebrated it. My daddy went all out for the 4th with massive fireworks that made the whole extended family "ooh" and "aah" over the light show he put on. I have no doubt that some of those fireworks would be illegal today, but they were accept when and where I grew up.
The 4th was a day of food, family, and fun. We spent the day at my grandparents' house on the lake (the better to keep from starting a fire) with aunts, uncles, and cousins galore. I lit everything I could get my hands on: holding on to bottle rockets until the stick was tugged from upward momentum, lighting black cat firecrackers, smoke bombs...I can't even remember it all.
That day, my daddy was one of the kids. He delighted in it about as much as anyone if not more. Every year, he would swear that he wasn't going to spend that much and then we'd go to the fireworks stand and come out with several bags of explosive chaos. The last summer he was alive, he lit fireworks with my daughter -- who was a lot more scared than I ever had the sense to be.
This is the day that I notice his absence; there isn't any other holiday that it hits me so hard that he's gone. When I watch fireworks displays that aren't half as fun as the ones we had, I hear his voice in my head commenting on colors or timing or whatever. I remember being tiny and putting my little hand in one of his massive ones -- my fingers barely big enough to wrap around his thumb while he showed me how to light a rocket and then get away from it. I remember him and I...I'm thankful for the time we had though I regret the time he missed with my daughter.
Today is about honoring those who are lost, to me. Though he wasn't lost directly from his time in Vietnam, I do know that his cancer was a result of it and I feel that emptiness that much more.
Cherish your loved ones today and be thankful for all that you have. Enjoy your 4th with love, security, and freedom.