Proud To Be An American

On America's birthday, columnist Phillip Marshall writes about what being American means to him.

If I close my eyes, I can still see my father sitting in the little chair in my room as I drift toward sleep. He is softly singing the old Irish song "Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral." I know the words to this day: "Over in Kelarney, so many years ago. My mother sang a song to me in tones so sweet and low...

I mention that today because my father, listening to a faraway radio signal, first heard that song on a lonely night flying over Sicily in World War II. He was a communications officer in the Army Air Corps, what is today the United States Air Force.

My father was a gentle man, one who wanted to live and let live. But when war broke out, he was standing in line the next day to enlist. He was an American man in his early 20s, the same age as my oldest son, who answered because his country called. I think today of my father's brother, the uncle I never knew. I never knew him because he died a hero's death on Iwo Jima and was awarded the Silver Star. I think of my grandfather, an uneducated country boy from rural Alabama who fought and bled on the battlefields of France in World War I.

This is a day for family, barbecue, fireworks and good times, but more than that it is for remembering countless young men and women like my father and like my uncle and grandfather who went off to fight wars foreign to their instincts. It is because of them that we celebrate the 227th birthday of this country that grew from a grand experiment known as freedom.

It is because of them that I can say today I am proud to be an American.

I am proud to be an American because I must bow to no man.

I am proud to be an American because I can worship my God in the way and in the place of my choice.

I am proud to be an American because my children are free to pursue their dreams, to celebrate their successes and to rise to fight again when they fail.

I am proud to be an American because I can speak my mind and need not fear a knock on my door in the night.

I am proud to be an American because more than 40 years ago my country took a hard look at itself and said it was wrong to judge a man by the color of his skin.

I am proud to be an American because no two-bit terrorist can bring us to our knees.

I am proud to be an American because, despite all who would wish us ill, no country in the history of mankind has been so generous with its wealth.

I am proud to be an American because I can write what I believe to be the truth here and in my newspaper without fear of censorship or reprisal.

I am proud to be an American because I can vote my conscience without fear of retribution.

I am proud to be an American because, long ago, brave men gave their very lives to show this strange concept of people governing themselves could work.

I am proud to be an American because, even in the worst of times, millions around the world dream of living in my country.

I'm proud to be an American because being a man of your word means more than having an aristocratic name.

I'm proud to be an American because I can be a lawyer, a farmer or a newspaper reporter and succeed or fail on my own merits.

I'm proud to be an American because of all the great men and women who contributed in their own ways to making this country a beacon for the ages.

In short, in the words of singer Lee Greenwood, I'm proud to be an American because at least I know I'm free.


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