I had the privilege of performing this monologue myself as a tribute to my Grandfather and my Great-Uncles (his brothers). Grandpa is no longer with us, and Uncle Joe and Uncle John are no longer able to get out unassisted, but my tribute and my pride for their service to this country still remains.
I love Fourth of July parades. There’s excitement in the air, candy strewn all over the ground, and marching bands heralding the songs of our nation. People line both sides of the street waving flags handed to them by a politician running for office, or a clown just trying to make the kids happy. We’re happy . . . and we’re free.
Then somewhere between a dance troop and the Boy Scouts, without a float or loud brilliant music the veterans march by to the beat of a solitary snare drum, battle-clad in their uniforms and holding their rifles. Sometimes they walk in step with each other, and sometimes they don’t. But as they pass, no matter who my grandpa and his brothers have been talking to, they pull themselves out of their lawn chairs, put their hats over their hearts, and solemnly nod at men whom they’ve probably never met before, because they’re vets too.
I have never been to war. I’ve never heard it, or seen it, or breathed it in my lungs. My mind cannot comprehend it much beyond the evening news. But in that moment as the vets pass, for only a moment, I can see through the eyes of my grandpa and great uncles the very essence of patriotism and the very stuff of our liberty. It has been in those moments that I am acutely aware of the cost of my freedom, and my eyes tear because I could never be so proud to be an American.
If it were possible, and if I were ever given the chance, I would say thank you to all those who’ve ever served in the Coastguard, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, or the Marines for defending, protecting, and upholding my freedoms. Our freedoms. Because of you I can be whoever I dream to be.
Because of you I am an American.