I remember one time when I was at a Phoenix Suns game - before the game started a woman came out to sing the National Anthem. She sang the first couple of notes and then her microphone went dead. She kept singing, and then the most amazing thing happened, the people close to the floor of the arena started singing with her and it just rose up the arena until the whole place was singing along. Chills ran up my spine and of course the tears started flowing - it was such an amazing thing to be part of.
While I was on my mission in the South of France, the first gulf war broke out. There are a lot of Arabs there, the South of France is only a couple hundred miles of ocean away from North Africa. Those North Africans did not really love the United States, so as a safety precaution my mission president told us to lie. If anyone came up and asked us if we were American we were supposed to tell them that we were Canadians. All of the Canadian missionaries loved that. It was a happy day when I could put my American flag pin back on my back pack.
After those 18 months of living away from home in a foreign country, I will never forget the way I felt when I came home. I had a layover in Detroit, MI. It was very odd to be there and to still be a missionary and to be able to hear English all around me. When we touched down in Phoenix, of course I loved seeing my family waiting for me at the gate (pre - 9/11 obviously), I loved the feeling of the warm, dry air hitting me, and I loved all of the American flags I could see. I never felt so much pride in country as I did on that 25 minute drive home from the airport. There were flags flying everywhere! I could see them over car dealerships and storage facilities - we started counting them and there were more than 25 flags visible from the freeway. I loved it!! I know they had always been there and I had traveled that freeway countless times, but they had never meant so much to me as they did that night.
Just one more quick story - I know this is getting long. Alan and I were so blessed to be able to travel back East a couple of years ago. We had read this series of books - A Prelude to Glory - about the American Revolution. They were amazing historical fiction books about a family during that time in our history. Although the church was not yet organized, these colonists were being moved by the Spirit to establish this great country. Alan and I walked the Freedom Trail, we visited the Old North Church, Paul Revere's home, Bunker Hill and the State House. We boarded the USS Constitution sitting in Boston Harbor and witnessed the cannons being shot. It was an amazing trip and it made me even more proud to be an American (yes, I cry whenever I hear that Lee Greenwood song).
I wish everyone a happy Independence Day!! I hope you will go and see the fireworks and hear the National Anthem being played. I hope you will fly a flag that day and teach your kids what it means to you. We will say the Pledge of Allegiance and pray for the soldiers who are defending this great country. We will also thank our Heavenly Father for allowing us to live in this great nation with all of it's freedoms, liberties and justice.