Ole Pappy

My meaning of The Fourth of July

This week we’re celebrating The Fourth of July. What meaning does that have to most of us? Well, let’s see ... there’s a day off work ... fireworks ... lots of food and maybe to get away for awhile. First July 4th Celebration .. On July 4th, 1777, the first official July 4th celebration was held.

This day was celebrated with the firing of guns, cannons, bonfires and fireworks. Philadelphia was the first city to celebrate July 4th in this manner (which was the capitol of the United States at the time).

Other cities soon took up the practice of firing guns and fireworks on July 4th as well. Official Declaration ... July 4th was not declared an official federal holiday until 1941. Before then the 4th of July was still celebrated around the country but in a less official capacity.

Once July 4th was named a federal holiday, more people than ever started using fireworks as a part of their Independence Day celebrations. But for me, the Fourth of July will always hold another meaning.

The year was 1969 and I was sitting in the middle of a leach-infested stream in a far-away place called Vietnam. I was cold, damp and very lonesome.

A GI far away from home, with no way out, it was, to say the least, depressing.

When it rained, the storm soaked through my skin. When it was hot, the sun poured down unmercifully. The nights were the hardest because guns boomed and the flash of big guns disturbed the night. Laying on the hard, rough ground with only a single wrap around me, I found my surroundings very disturbing.

We were on guard duty with the goal of hearing the enemy approach before they reached our regular camp. It was so dark I could hardly see my hand in front of my face. At some point during the night, there was a rustling of bushes and what seemed like a slight blur of movement. Breathing didn’t seem like an option at a time like that, so silence became my best friend.

As I laid there on the cold ground, I suddenly saw a figure approach me. It walked right past me, stopped within inches of my hand, which was on the ground, then continued past me.

Once it was gone, it was time to breath again. The rest of the night was a blur.

I knew I’d come within inches of being discovered by the enemy. I could hardly move and I wouldn’t have been able to talk, even if I wanted to.

My eyes never closed, awaiting the dawning of a new born day. Then, just as the sun began to bring a new beginning, I saw it. There, just down the trail, near an old grass hut was an American Flag.

It hung there in the breeze for all to see. Not long after an American solider appeared, saying, “Get ready to go soldier.” That flag had saved me. Not long after that, I read a copy of the Stars and Stripes, the military newspapers. There was a photo of some young people burning the American Flag on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis.

I was outraged. They were burning my flag, the one that had saved me one terrible night. And they were doing it right there in Minnesota, in my backyard. Then and there I vowed to honor the American Flag. After all, for me, it stood for freedom — and YOU CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY!

So the Fourth of July is special to me. The American Flag is special — and it always will be!

LAUGH A LITTLE: Wow, what a job! Reaching the end of a job interview, the Human Resources Officer asks a young engineer fresh out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “And what starting salary are you looking for?” The engineer replies, “In the region of $125,000 a year, depending on the benefits package.” The interviewer inquires, “Well, what would you say to a package of five weeks vacation, 14 paid holidays, full medical and dental, company matching retirement fund to 50 percent of salary, and a company car leased every two years, say, a red Corvette?” The engineer sits up straight and says, “Wow! Are you kidding?” The interviewer replies, “Yeah, but you started it.”

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: As my Ole Pappy used to say, “Your goal should be to become someone’s favorite hello and their hardest goodbye.” Ole Pappy was all about kindness. He believed you couldn’t, “Out-kind” someone. They’d always come back for more. Thanks Ole Pappy!

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