July 4th – Generations of Independence

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Opinion by Mia Freneaux
    Independence Day. A day we celebrate with family, food, and fireworks. But how many of us celebrate by remembering? The day we won our independence, the birth of our great country, did not come about by people eating hot dogs and lighting sparklers.
    My dad's ancestors included William the Immigrant, who came to Jamestown in the early 1600's; Col. George Armistead, who held Fort McHenry against the British in 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the "Star Spangled Banner"; and General Lewis Armistead, who led Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg during the Civil War.
    My father, following in these footsteps, didn't think twice about signing up with the Army Air Corps to serve his country during World War II.  He took the time to tell me why serving my country was not just important, it was required of all who bear the proud title of "Citizen of the United States".
    My mother's parents, through great hardship, managed to escape the horrors of the Russian Revolution and settle in Latvia, a small Baltic country.  My grandmother shared some of the things she witnessed when total anarchy swept through her country, destroying everything in its path, including her father, sister, and two brothers in law before a firing squad.  When it became evident that Latvia would soon fall, my grandparents and my mother were invited to come to America due to the service my grandfather had given our government.
    My mother came to this country speaking five languages, none of them English.  She had to teach herself, no ESL existed.  She had to study American Government and History to qualify to become a citizen. Nonetheless, my mother to this day will tell you the proudest, happiest day in her life was the day she took oath and became a citizen of the Greatest Country on Earth.  She raised me to appreciate all the freedoms we take so casually here – the freedom to express ourselves without fear, to vote, to fair trial, to security. 
    I guess you could say I am in the unique position of actually embodying America's history, from its earliest moments, to being a first-generation American.  It is a position I keenly appreciate, because my parents took the time to share their stories and their patriotism with me.  I am proud to be an American, where the sacrifice of many have guaranteed me freedoms only dreamed about in most of this world.  My pride is not my own, it is inherited from those grand people who believed in a Greater Good, and were willing to give their all for it.
    What are your stories?  Have you served our country?  Please let your children and grandchildren appreciate your sacrifice by sharing your experiences with them.  Does your family history have stories of hardships overcome?  Battles won?  Faith tried but found to hold true?  Share them with the next generation.  Instill in them the pride and responsibility you feel.  Patriotism is an old fashioned idea nowadays – it will only live if those who value it take the time to pass it on.  This Independence Day, take a moment to remember.