The birth of a patriot

When does something such as patriotism start in life?

Before I start my story, let me clarify the word "patriot." In today's politically correct world, that word conjures up all kinds of militants, militias, backwoods kinds -- ready to take on anything that seems to take away their freedoms (as they perceive it). Their zeal generally takes away their common sense. Because I don't particularly walk in the PC world, I'll just be a patriot.

The recent dedication of the World War II memorial monument in May brought oh so much back to me. I'm blessed to be almost 68 years old at this writing and was just older than 5 when we went to war. But that wasn't the beginning.

It began in Chicago, possibly in 1938 or 1939. I lived in Chicago proper and remembered that it was very dark that night. No street lights were on, and the adults were scurrying around, hanging dark blankets and whatever else they could find to cover the windows so no light would show through.

"Why, Mom, can't we let any light out?" I asked as only a 2- to 3-year-old would say. She said, "Why, it's an air raid. We don't want the planes to drop bombs on us."

We lived on the north side of Chicago. My dad worked as a machinist, not that I knew that then. A few years went by, and then Pearl Harbor happened. I remember the day well, because my whole life changed. A few weeks later on Dec. 21, 1941, we moved to the south side of Chicago.

My dad tried to enlist in the military but was rejected because of his machinist background. "Uncle Sam" (who was he?) needed him to build war parts. That's why we moved, to be close to the plant where he worked. We were a poor family, still trying to get up and out of what the Depression left my parents in. Tough time.

Rationing started for just about everything it seemed, but in this gray neighborhood, people started victory gardens. We banded together to help each other, but it was still a hard time. Then the most glorious day arrived --the war ended -- and we had a parade down our street.

There was a star in almost every home or apartment window. They changed colors as loved ones died. We said the Pledge of Allegiance in school. I am not sure when it started, but I remember doing it. The Ten Commandments were in all the schools. If it wasn't for that, I wouldn't know anything about any kind of right or wrong, it wasn't exactly taught at home.

As the years went by, our world was doing just fine. Oh, we had a few skirmishes with Korea and Vietnam, but I was busy with life and raising a family. Briefly I wondered, "What's this that people are so mad about our servicemen? Why aren't we having a big parade, like when I was a little girl when we won the war?"

How sad that the truth has come out about Vietnam.

"Ah," said my patriotism. "It's time to wake up and pay attention."

This story is in honor of our wonderful country and all those who've served and sworn to defend and protect it. Unfortunate]y it took the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to spark our recent return to patriotism, and there are many who are trying to make political points in their remarks, etc., causing uncertainty about our commitment to our precious men and women who are defending us. How sad for them. Don't they know?

God Bless America!

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