Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, July 04, 2008

Hurrah for the USA!

by Kerry Blair

Today is the 4th of July. Do you know where your children are?

I ask because the 4th has evolved into one of the most family-centered holidays on our calendars. Most of us anticipate a weekend spent with family—me included! But, knowing me, you knew I’d feel compelled to point out the more than quarter of a million empty chairs at today’s cookouts; the child-shaped holes in so many parents’ hearts; the thousands of children whose parents aren’t here to take them to a parade because they are helping ensure latter-day independence by sacrificing so much of their own at a bases, stations, camps, outposts, installations, or ships at sea worldwide. They are America’s modern freedom fighters. Do you know where they are?

According to recent statistics from the US Department of Defense, America has 1.3 million active-duty servicemen-and-women, 289,000 of them abroad. Iraq has claimed over half that number. Next, in descending order: Germany, Japan, Korea, and Afghanistan. Many more are deployed in another 152 nations or territories or, in the case of 92,000 naval personnel, on ships at sea. The United States’ soldiers, sailors, airmen, National Guard, and Marines make up more than half the world’s troops who serve outside the borders of their homelands. Our troops outnumber those of all the other nations. Combined. How far we’ve come since 1776!

Or have we?

Two hundred and thirty-two years ago, a document penned by men of inspiration and ratified by others of vision and courage, declared certain rights (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness) to be inalienable, an endowment from God. They pledged to fight for these rights for themselves and their families, and to die for them if necessary. Thomas Pain wrote:

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this crisis shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

Here we are again, but it is 2008 and an election year. (If that is not enough to try anybody’s soul, I don’t know what is.) We are again at a crossroads, facing a new crisis. But this time our enemies are not as easily identified. The lines our leaders draw in the sand are often blurred and indefinite. Aa a people, our faith, optimism, and even virtue appear to wan, while self-centeredness and the quest for instant gratification rises. On September 12, 2001 we were united in a common cause, patriots all. Seven war-weary years later, it is summer in our great nation—literally and metaphorically. Military enlistment is at an all-time low. Worse, many Americans—too many Americans—have come to regard terrorism as more of a political beach ball to be batted back and forth than the living, breathing, plotting, growing, grasping horror that it is.

We simply cannot allow ourselves to become desensitized, complacent . . . or worse. Last year, a young Marine from Phoenix, Arizona was killed by an IED in Iraq. You’d think his death would have been the greatest tragedy in his parent’s life, but that came days later, at his funeral. His mother wrote of being unable to pass into the church to mourn her son without first confronting a small but vitriolic and aggressive group of anti-war protestors. The police were called; the press arrived. The situation would have grown uglier than it was if not for one man: her husband, a soft-spoken father of two whom she had watched age a decade in a few short days—or perhaps over the course of a few long hours. Nevertheless, with the police and his son’s supporters at his back and the mob in his face he said to the authorities, “Leave them alone. My son died so that, God willing, these people will never lose the freedom to say and do what they want. Just leave them alone.”

President Ezra Taft Benson wrote:

Brave Americans gave their lives in the settlement of this nation—and in its preservation. Let us remember our heritage and recognize that the day of courage, labor, and sacrifice is never done.

May we remember that today as we celebrate our nation’s independence, and revel in our freedom. May we, like that father of a fallen hero, step forward with courage and compassion whenever and wherever the need for patriotism is great.

As Daniel Webster observed:

. . . this Declaration will stand. It may cost treasure, and it may cost blood: but it will stand, and it will richly compensate for both . . . I am for the Declaration. It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment, independence, now, and independence forever.

I know where my kids are today. Two of them are here to celebrate with me, or soon will be. Two more are away, one abroad, offering their lives in the preservation of that great Declaration and the God-given Constitution that soon followed. I miss them more than words can say. But if they cannot be here, I am grateful and more than a little proud that they are where they are—and who they are. America needs them, and the men and women like them, as never before.

I love the 4th of July! The parades and pomp and family-centered celebration bring joy to my heart and tears to my eyes. But like so many of my peers, I’ll watch the fireworks from a distance tonight, if at all. The “rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air” are just a little too realistic for those of us who have children willing to put themselves between their country and the real thing. Remember them today, will you, if only in passing? Take just a moment as you ask for Our Father’s blessing on your food to ask God to bless them—to bless America—today and always.

Then, tomorrow and all the days that follow, get out there and do your part to make it so!

(Note: The quotes I used today, and many others, can be found in Packets of Sunlight for American Patriots, complied by Marnie L. Pehrson. You can buy the book HERE.)


At 7/04/2008 1:23 PM, Blogger Stephanie Abney said...

Kerry ~

What a beautiful and heart-felt blog. Thanks for sharing it. And please thank your sons for all of us that they would risk their lives and go without all the normal daily comforts to protect the freedoms of people everywhere. It is young patriots like your sons that built this country and they will see to it that we get to keep it. May the rest of us do our part, whatever that may be.

Love and Blessings,

At 7/04/2008 1:31 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Stephanie is doing her part today! She and her family are having a neighborhood scavenger hunt to collect much-needed items for our troops in Iraq. (How fun is that?!) Hurray for her and those like her!

And thanks for the copyediting catch, Steph! I wrote this so dang fast -- a BBQ to get to and all. :)

At 7/04/2008 2:14 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Kerry, knowing your Marine son Matt has changed my life. Little did I know when I started asking him questions while doing research for my book set in Iraq, how much it really would change. Hearing about some of his experiences in Iraq and those of his squad was sobering. It truly made me appreciate the very large sacrifice so many men and women in the military are making.

Because of this, I really wanted to give back to them in some small way, and so, in conjunction with Operation: Care and Comfort (affiliated with the Red Cross) I am collecting items for care packages to be sent to our men and women overseas. From July 14 to July 19th anyone can drop off items at any Seagull bookstore across the Wasatch front. You can find the list of needed items at my website, I hope that people really step up to give our soldiers a little touch of home this July. It would be such a nice way to say, thank you, I think.

And thank you for this beautiful blog. You have such a an amazing family and such a stirring way with words. I look forward to your posts each and every week.

At 7/04/2008 3:25 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Kerry, you never fail to give me goosebumps. Thank you for this beautiful post.

I'll confess -- we often get sidetracked from the 4th because it's also my daughter's birthday, and we tend to put the focus on her. Thank you for reminding me of the many other reasons I have to get teary today.

At 7/04/2008 5:48 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

Kerry, I've been thinking of your boys along with mine today. I think I said enough on my own blog except I'd like to add that your words touched my heart.

At 7/04/2008 7:15 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Julie: I had a paragraph about what you're doing, but I deleted because I didn't know if I was allowed to tell. :) What an incredibly fabulous thing to do! I'm participating down here in AZ in a show of solidarity.

Jennie: Once again I just couldn't get the comments on your blogsite to work. This is what I wanted to say about your post:

What a beautiful blog! You made me cry!

I put up a flag every morning at dawn and take it down every evening at dusk. As I do I say a prayer for my sons and all those with whom they serve.

A story: We also have two long, yellow ribbons attached to our flag -- one for each of our kids. This is the same flag we post and retire every Thursday in Cub Scouts. We recently lost the ribbons to a windstorm. Before I got around to replacing them, one of my eight-year-old boys arrived at den meeting with two beatiful, bright new ribbons. He'd told his mother that they were lost -- and what they represented -- and she'd driven into town to replace them for me. It truly touched my heart.
. . . As have you, my dear friend, and your heroic son and incredible daughter. Happy 4th to you and yours!

You can all read Jennie's blog by going to and clicking on "Blog" Do it now!

At 7/04/2008 9:05 PM, Blogger Sandra said...

Kerry, thank you for this post. As a mom of two Marines ready to be deployed in a couple months, I appreciate this. I also appreciate the service of your sons and family. Thank-you, Thank them.

At 7/04/2008 10:08 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

Kerry, I loved the story about your yellow ribbons. When our Army sargeant was coming home the first time I couldn't find any yellow ribbons so I bought a yellow plastic tablecloth and cut it up and made huge ribbons to hang on our garage door lamps. Your note made me cry. I don't know why you have difficulty posting on my blog; I'll see if I can find out the problem.

At 7/04/2008 10:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have no sons to send so it is with deep gratitude we thank you and them for the gift you give us. I will never feel the exact fear or torture that you mothers of soilders constantly live with, but my heart goes to you with deep thanks. Your sons and daughters bless us all and we are not unaware. May you all be fully blessed in turn.

Marlene Austin

At 7/04/2008 11:49 PM, Blogger Tamra Norton said...


Your words have touched me deeply tonight. I'm so thankful for our men and women serving in the US Armed Forces, as well as their families. I recently had the privilege of speaking to 100 children at the Operation Purple Camp here in Texas--a free summer camp for children with a deployed parent. These kids are my heros! They are SO strong and brave, and I think we all-too-often forget about the great sacrifice they are making as well.

God bless all of you in your separation, and God bless America.

At 7/05/2008 9:51 AM, Blogger Kenji said...

Just dropping by here, to greet all our American friends especially Kerry and your family a happy independence day! Enjoy this holiday!

Me and my wife are grateful that the Lord directed America to where she is now, and there are a few who wanted to destroy the very legacy that the founding fathers left for their posterity, such as the Constitution, virtues, and honor.

We made our piece about the great American people and the soldier, and it's quite emotional. The spirit say's that our heartfelt gratitude for you and your family.

At 7/05/2008 12:09 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Beautiful and powerful, Kerry! Thank you.

At 7/05/2008 11:17 PM, Blogger Dan and Wendy said...

Very inspirational. Thank you.

At 7/06/2008 5:44 PM, Blogger Candace E. Salima said...

Kerry, my heart just sang as I read what you wrote. Thank you!

At 7/07/2008 10:33 AM, Blogger Pat said...

"I venture to suggest that patriotism is not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime."
I just read this quote by Adalai Stevenson and thought of this blog post. Congratulations on continuing this grand tradition in your family!

At 7/07/2008 1:32 PM, Blogger Cheri J. Crane said...

Kerry, you and your sons are among the bravest people that I know. Thank you for a timely reminder of what makes this country great.


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