An American Girl in Washington

Proud to be an American Girl

Posted in Uncategorized by AGinDC on 4 July 2011

There are few things that I look forward to as much as the 4th of July.  An expensive glass of wine, a fantastic party, a beautiful new pair of shoes, Skyping with my niece.  Those things are all great, but I loved the 4th of July long before I was allowed to drink, long before I attended my first party, maybe not before I discovered the wonders of shoes, but definitely before my darling niece was born.

As an Army brat, you learn to love Independence Day early.  Military bases are (or at least, were in my day) the last place where people still celebrate a real, true, community festival like Mayberry can’t even imagine.  Military bases are worlds unto themselves, big communities with class systems, schools, hospitals, traditions, shops, grocery stores, and giant July 4th celebrations.  I still remember the races, community barbecues, fireworks displays with 3D glasses.  I remember looking forward to the 4th more than anything, possibly even more than Christmas.  When you live in a place where you stop to salute the flag and listen to Taps every day at 5pm, where you hear your father get up before the sun to go to PT (Physical Training) with all of the other dads, and where you’re surrounded every day by heroes, you can’t help but grow up to be incredibly patriotic.  I still remember making care packages with brownies, homemade pillows, and recordings of our favorite stories to send to my father in the first Gulf War.  As a military child, you learn the meaning of “Freedom isn’t free” very, very early.

It was hard for us, but it’s even harder for children now. At least my father’s war ended quickly.  But, then again, it didn’t really, and after officer’s school and Ranger training and Field Artillery exercises and a war where the soldiers (including him) came back with mysterious symptoms that no one could explain, my father was a different, and harder man than the man my mother married.  That, combined with his decision to become a very conservative preacher, are why I don’t have a father today.  So, in some ways, the military never leaves you, even when your service does.

But that brings me back to why I love the 4th of July.  Oprah once said on a show that American girls are the luckiest girls in the world.  I don’t remember what she was referencing but the fact is, it’s true.  Having spent more of my life moving and traveling than standing still and having lived in several different countries and continents, I am acutely aware of how lucky I am to be an American girl.  Not a day goes by than I don’t thank the gods that I was born on a Navajo reservation in Arizona (no, I’m not Navajo).  I wouldn’t have the life I have if I had been born in Rio de Janeiro, or Phnom Penh, or Sydney, or Paris, or London.  Nowhere else on Earth would I have the freedom of choice coupled with the wealth of options that I have in the United States.  Nowhere else was the fight for racial equality so successful, was the feminist movement so far-reaching, was the Constitution so awe-inspiring.  In no other nation could my great-great-grandfather have been the man he was so that my great-grandmother could have the opportunities she had so my grandmother could be the woman she is so my mother could have the life she has so that I could grow up to be the spoiled, over-educated, and insanely fortunate 27-year-old girl that I am.

My friend Darius said it best tonight when, as we were watching a panoramic display of fireworks from Maryland to the White House (Happy Birthday Malia!), he said, “But for the grace of God, those fireworks would be bombs in Libya”.  And he’s so right.  But for the accident of my birth, I could be in 192 other countries right now.  But I’m not.  I’m here.  I’m one of the lucky ones.  I won the lottery.  I get to be an American.  How amazing is that?

So yes, I love this country more than anything in the world.  America was, in fact, probably my first love.  Or my second, after Teddy Ruxpin.  As a little girl, I felt safe living in a world of soldiers.  As an adolescent, the monthly arrival of American Girl magazine was the highlight of my life.  As a teenager, living the All-American experience of dance team, varsity sports, choir, theatre, summer camps, college tours, and AP classes set me up for the best life had to offer.  And as a girl in her 20s, being an American has saved me more than once while traveling the world, has given me the chance for a first-class education, has propelled me to teach and learn about the people in my country who are not as fortunate as I have been, and has led me to live in our nation’s capitol, trying my best to find my place in this country, and the world.  So, yeah, I’m a little overly emotional about Independence Day.

Aren’t you?

Happy 4th of July.

An American Girl in Washington

PS.  For information on giving back to the soldiers and families who give so much to us, visit Joining Forces to find out about the amazing work that FLOTUS is doing to support our military families.


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