I believe that my love for America was born when I heard my great grandfather’s World War II story the first time. The heroic deeds of General Douglas MacArthur are well celebrated in my birth country of the Philippines in the province of Leyte. Especially every October 20th. That’s the date when General MacArthur fulfilled his “I shall return” promise and liberated the Philippines from Japanese occupation. However, July 4th is when the General is celebrated privately by my great grandfather (a soldier who fought side by side with his American comrades) by visiting his General’s statue, with a salute and tears rolling down his cheeks.
This private celebration was continued by my grandfather (who was a Guerilla during the Japanese occupation). Although in a different manner but with the same question “What would have happened if General Douglas MacArthur did not return and wasn’t true to his word? Without the tenacity and the strength of the American GIs? My Grand Father, along with his fellow veterans wore Khakis, caps, sunglasses and cigarette holders imitating General MacArthur. It used to baffle me why older kids were nowhere to be found (hiding) while we the younger kids were sequestered as their captive audience as they took turns reminiscing about the war. As kids we learned not to complain if we wanted to be dismissed sooner. The first time he took me along, I asked him why I had to listen to War stories when it’s not a full moon. To my horror because I asked, it gave them additional couple of hours to take turns reciting their sacrifices and how much they owe their American general and American comrades.
I realized that my love for America was born when I heard how my great grandfather walked the famous Bataan Death March along with American soldiers. Then it continuously grows with every story of their commitment, loyalty and generosity which according to my grand father is the essence of the American heart.
When I heard President Trump’s D-Day speech, “The GIs who boarded the landing craft that morning knew that they carried on their shoulders not just the pack of a soldier, but the fate of the world.” As I listened to every word of his speech especially to the part “More strength of American arms was the strength of American hearts”. In my mind I saw the faces of great grandfather, grandfather and every war veteran in my neighborhood nodding their heads. As the President continued his speech, “They were sustained by the confidence that America can do anything because we are a noble nation, with a virtuous people, praying to a righteous God”. I was completely in a reverie because I just saw my grand-father smiling down on me saying “Be thankful always because You’re American now and living the American dream”.
Once I read that Patriotism is neither precisely an emotion nor an opinion, nor a mandate, but a state of mind – a reflection of our own personal sense of worth, and respect for our roots. Love of country plays a part, but it’s not merely love. Neither is it pride, although pride too is one of the ingredients. It’s a commitment, commitment to what is best inside all of us.
For me Patriotism should start with respect that blossoms with Gratitude. Gratitude carries hope along with it. With gratitude you tend to subordinate your own welfare over others, and the priority becomes how to promote and lift the most if not all, people around you.
But respect starts at the border. The choice whether to follow or break the law preceeds the state of mind or heart that’s carried around for the rest of your stay in that country. And whatever kind of mindset or heart that is, it’s contagious.
Every day I commit to be a better version of myself because of my love for this country. Every time I say “GOD BLESS THE U.S.A”, it’s not a cliché. It is a serious prayer, I say it with a heart overflowing with gratitude. Asking GOD, to show me the way to become spontaneously a positive declaration of the true essence of the American spirit that has somehow gotten lost in the shuffle of our everyday life.
I chose to be American, that is such a wondrous feeling. To be American is freedom in itself. I commit to pay it forward.
Happy July 4th! May GOD BLESS us all! And GOD BLESS AMERICA. Thank you.