Posted in America, freedom

Let freedom ring!

It’s Independence Day, otherwise known as the Fourth of July. A day we here in the United States of America celebrate our freedoms.

As I consider this day and the many struggles, chaos, and trying circumstances my country has endured, I’m reminded of this excerpt from Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech so many years ago.

“…So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring. And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!‘ ”

The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, PA, circa 1990

Perhaps we all need to be reminded that each of us is God’s child, no matter our color, no matter our race, no matter our religion and that we must cherish the freedoms we so blatantly take for granted in this great country of ours.

Today and every day going forward, let’s be united as free American people and proclaim, “Let freedom ring!” and not be afraid to defend it.

“Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it.” ~ Pericles

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in America, patriotism

Proud to be an American

America. A country of 50 united states that was founded 244 years ago when the words written by Thomas Jefferson in a document entitled the Declaration of Independence was signed, sealed, and delivered on July 4, 1776.

The United States of America. The land of liberty.

A land from sea to shining sea represented by a flag waving in the wind that’s displayed even outside my country home. That flag consists of 13 red and white alternating stripes standing for the 13 original colonies at the time of this nation’s birth and 50 white stars – one for each state – on a field of blue.

Those colors used have specific meaning: red for valor and bravery; white for purity and innocence, and blue for vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

America. A perfect nation? No. One without mistakes? Absolutely not. One with no faults? Of course not.

America. A country without trials and tribulations? Not likely. One with turmoil and unrest? Unfortunately, yes. Especially in these current times.

As a nation, we Americans are struggling right now. But we have struggled before. We have endured horrendous times and we still stand. We have weathered what’s thrown at us and we persevere.

And we will continue to do so. Because despite her faults, I love my country. I love what she personifies. I love her history, good and bad. I love the freedoms those who came before me fought so valiantly to procure for future generations.

I pray for my country each and every day. I pray for my country’s leaders. I give thanks to God that I am an American and I ask Him to not only bless my country but to heal its many hurts and anguish.

I’m proud to say I’m an American, so on this Independence Day, this fourth day of July, this day that we set aside to commemorate and remember the birth of this great nation, I will celebrate. And I will celebrate my freedom to do so.

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” ~ Ronald Reagan

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Posted in America, Life, travel

Naval inspiration

blogIMG_8173The desire to serve his country in some way was instilled in my husband, the Papa of this empty nest, when he was a young boy.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may recall that Papa is a military veteran having served as an officer in the U.S. Army.  But the army really wasn’t his first choice. From the time he was a young’un, he was fascinated by ships and the Navy.

Maybe it was because his family always took summer vacation trips to the Atlantic seaboard, so the ocean entranced Papa. Or maybe it was because a favorite uncle served in the Navy during World War 2 or that Papa’s oldest brother also did a stint as a sailor.  

Whatever the reason, we have old black and white photos of Papa as a youngster hamming it up for the camera in someone’s old navy uniform. But trying on old uniforms is not where his interest stopped.

As a young teenager, my hubby joined the Naval Sea Cadet Corps (NSCC), an organization for youngsters aged 13 through high school graduation.  Sea Cadets are sponsored by the Navy League of the United States and supported by both the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard.

During the school year, Papa attended Sea Cadet weekly meetings where he learned about being a sea-farer. He also recalls weekend trips to maritime destinations like Baltimore’s harbor; Philadelphia, where they boarded a destroyer ship; and staying on a lightship in St. Michael’s, Maryland. 

But the biggest thrills were the summers Papa was 14 and 15, when he boarded a bus with the rest of the Sea Cadets and traveled to Florida. That first summer, he attended a two-week boot camp at a naval training center in Orlando. The second summer, he trained on-board the USS Lexington, an aircraft carrier out of Pensacola and spent a week at sea on that vessel in the Gulf of Mexico.  

So Papa fully intended to join Naval ROTC when he enrolled in college. However, his college choice because of a particular major thwarted those plans since NROTC wasn’t offered there. Instead he opted for Army ROTC.

Even though those days are long gone by, ships and anything nautical or naval still interest Papa, so on our trip through Maryland, we chose to visit Annapolis and tour the US Naval Academy.

As always when it comes to history and military information, Papa’s attention was riveted on each display in the visitor’s center. My interest piqued while observing exhibits on the many naval graduates who became astronauts, including Alan Shepherd. (I recall first grade memories writing sentences about Shepherd being the first American to travel into space.)

blogNaval AcademyLater, as we strolled through a nice, well-stocked gift shop, we found it humorous that Papa had not worn his ball cap with U.S. Army emblazoned on it as we noticed numerous items proclaiming “Beat Army!” on them.

As noteworthy as our visit there was, one aspect will remain in my memory for quite some time.  On our way out of the academy, we were ensnared in a group of elementary-aged school children who obviously were on a field trip that day.

Most of the kids were noisy and excited and trying to run ahead of their tour guide, except for one young fellow. While all of the other kids skipped along and paid no attention, that boy spied two brawny naval midshipmen walking towards us and immediately ran over to them, asking a question.

What might a young boy ask a naval student? “How did you get such big muscles?” No, not the question. “Where’s your uniform?” No, not even that.

The young boy asked if he could get his picture taken with those two fine fellows. They agreed immediately without hesitation, posing with him in the center, grinning from ear to ear, while one of the chaperones snapped a cell phone photo.

And you know what? I could picture my husband as a little boy doing the same thing. It warmed my heart. Because I thought that poignant little vignette is one of the aspects about what’s right about our country. There are still parents raising a young boy to respect, revere, and be inspired by those who want to serve this land, uphold the U.S. Constitution, and protect our freedom.

I have to wonder if someday that young boy will grow up to serve his country proudly. I certainly hope so and I hope he gets the respect he will deserve.

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” ~ President Ronald Reagan

©2019 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Posted in America, History

What lies beneath

blogIMG_0962Peaceful. Scenic. Picturesque.

Those are the words that cross my mind as I gaze at this photo I took recently.

An idyllic late summer day in beautiful countryside. A stately oak shade tree to pause beneath for a bit of rest. A time-worn but lovely farmstead surrounded by rustic log fencing providing a scenic view.

All of that captured with just one click of the camera.

Viewing that photo invokes feelings of blissful peace. That all is right with the world. No turmoil. No bickering. No troubles.

A kind of peace in the valley.

No sorrow. No sadness. No headaches. No heartaches. No confusion.

Just peace.

But looks can be so deceiving, can’t they? And they can mask what lies beneath.

This occurs to me as I think about those I know who are experiencing difficult times. Losses beyond belief. Turmoil and confusion. Sadness and grief. Yet, you wouldn’t know it from their outward appearances.

They put on a façade. A happy face. A smile and words spoken with a lilt to hide their pain.

They assure everyone that they are ‘just fine, thanks for asking.’ But inwardly, overwhelming emotions rise up threatening to destroy them. How many of us stifle our true feelings down inside? How many of us don’t expose what lies beneath the surface of our smiles?

Recently, we spent a few days away from home. We journeyed to an area of our state where there are verdant rolling hills, farm fields, and plenty of historical places of interest.

Yet this place once was a scene of massive destruction – not so much of property, but of human lives. Over 7,000 men lost their lives in this one place. Another 33,000+ were wounded and almost 11,000 were listed as missing. All told, 51,000 casualties.

It was the scene of the bloodiest and most gruesome battle ever fought on American soil all occurring in the heat and humidity during three days in July in the Pennsylvania countryside over 150 years ago. The agony and suffering which occurred there is unimaginable.

This place is Gettysburg.

Today there is peace in that valley again. The battle scarred land is well-healed over after a century and a half. The only remnants of that fierce combat that remain are the massive monuments, which mark the spots where troops fought and fell, scattered across the 24-mile long battlefield driving tour. 

And there are graves. Hundreds of graves, some marked, some only categorized by numbers.

Touring the battlefield, it’s hard to imagine the savagery that took place in this idyllic countryside. It’s difficult to imagine the bloodshed, the almost inhuman cries of war, and the moans of death when everywhere you look, you see the loveliest landscape.

And this is where I took that beautiful photo above these words. Tranquil scenery that masks what lies beneath the ground – the tragic loss of so many lives in this place. A time in history which practically tore our nation apart at the seams.

What lies beneath that hallowed ground is the horror of war. The tragedy of brother fighting brother, friend against friend, fellow countryman against fellow countryman. The American Civil War.

I’ve visited this place called Gettysburg in the past, touring the battlefield, reading the historical facts. But this time, something welled up inside of me like never before. The Battle of Gettysburg became more real, not just a story in a history book.

What lies beneath this picturesque scenery touched my heart and soul. The pain and anguish of a war among ourselves, American against American, rose from beneath the surface and gave me much pause to think.

I pray we never experience such a time ever again.

And yet, aren’t we waging a kind of civil war again today? Attempting to destroy one another, not with muskets and cannon fire, but with vitriolic rhetoric just because we don’t agree with one another’s viewpoint, or politics, or religious beliefs?

We fire vehement words to our ‘foes’ that surely pierce the soul and wound the heart. What lies beneath this modern civil war? Hatred? Anger? Fear? All powerful weapons of destruction.

It seems to me as a follower of Christ, that I should pray for those who hide their burdens deep inside – beneath the surface.  The walking wounded are among us, sometimes carrying their burdens in silence, but just as often lashing out at those who don’t agree with them with vehemence.

Just as the many homes and businesses of Gettysburg became field hospitals for the casualties of the great battle fought there, our churches should be a balm for the wounded, the broken, the hurting. 

“Church isn’t a museum for good people, it’s a hospital for the broken.” ~ Unknown

When we come together brother to brother, sister to sister, to help, encourage, and shoulder the load the weary and burdened carry, just as I see happening in Texas and Florida after the vicious hurricanes laid paths of destruction, instead of battling each other, that’s when we heal our land.

For me, that’s what it means to be an American.

“What we see often is only a fractional part of what it really is.” ~ Unknown

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

Posted in America, Independence Day, patriotism

Happy Birthday, America!

blogIMG_5765

“The United States is the only country with a known birthday.”  ~James G. Blaine

The United States of America.  It’s my country and I wouldn’t have wanted to be a native citizen of any other country in this world.  Patriotic? Yes, I am. As some unknown person once said, “My blood runs red, white, and blue.”

Why? Because I grew up in a time when we were taught to be proud of our nation yet remember the utmost sacrifices that were made to secure freedom and never take that freedom for granted.

I was taught that the Declaration of Independence was written with these words:  

“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I learned the preamble to the United States Constitution and what that important document established:

“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

My parents taught me to honor the symbol of our nation and its freedom, our flag, and the proper way to treat it and display it. I still recite the pledge of allegiance to our flag.

I know every word to The Star Spangled Banner; My Country ‘Tis of Thee; America, the Beautiful, and God Bless America.

My love for my country does not supersede my love for my Lord, but I know that my nation cannot and will not survive without being one nation under God.

I pray for this great nation of mine because it seems like we are sinking into a muddy mire of our own doing. And it’s time for we the people to speak up and out. As I reflect on this day – this Independence Day – the 4th of July,  the 240th birthday of my country, I take to heart the words of some of our founding fathers and former presidents because they still ring true.

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”  ~ Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

“How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!” ~ Thomas Jefferson

“A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.”  ~ Samuel Adams, letter to James Warren, February 12, 1779

“Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed – else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die.” ~ President Dwight D. Eisenhower

And finally a birthday blessing straight from the song, America, the Beautiful, written by Katharine Lee Bates:

“America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!”

Happy Birthday to my country, the United States of America. May God bless it and keep it and may it continue to be a shining light of liberty in a dark world of oppression.

©2016 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Posted in America

This Land: a photo essay

This Land Is Your Land

By Woody Guthrie

(Click on each photo if you’d like to see a larger picture.)

This land is your land,

This land is my land

from California

to the New York Island

From the redwood forest,

to the gulf stream waters

This land was made for you and me.

blog259As I was walking a ribbon of highway

I saw above me an endless skyway

I saw below me a golden valley

This land was made for you and me.

Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Posted in America, Home, Life, opportunity

America the Beautiful??

pexels-photo-117146.jpegI don’t know how beautiful America is in your area of the country, but where I live, it’s not looking very beautiful.

Maybe if you only gaze up at the “spacious skies” you see beauty but I wouldn’t recommend looking by the side of the road.

I’m talking trash today.  No, I’m not trash talking about my country.  I’m talking about the trash that my fellow countrymen fling out their car windows.

I’m disgusted at the trash that lines the highways and bi-ways of my area of the country and from a little research online, it appears this is an unsightly and costly problem all over the United States.  Transportation departments across the country spend millions of tax dollars and countless hours each year picking up litter.  I wonder why we have become a nation of lazy, slovenly slobs and why we don’t have enough pride to keep our countryside and cities clean.

On my travels today, I couldn’t help but notice the outrageous amount of litter carelessly tossed beside the highway.   I don’t think I saw one stretch of roadside that didn’t have garbage strewn everywhere  – water bottles, soda pop cans, beer cans, paper, coffee cups, fast food wrappers, plastic jugs, newspapers, plastic bags, cardboard, Styrofoam, even articles of clothing!

The litter list was endless and it didn’t matter if I was on a four-lane highway or a two-lane country road.   The more I viewed the trash trail, the angrier I became, and then I came home and found other people’s refuse thrown into my own yard.

Grrr!  You may not care about your yard, buddy, but I don’t want your beer cans dumped in mine!   There is so much litter accumulated across from our driveway that hubby and I will have to fill up several garbage bags just so we don’t have to look at it.

When I was a kid, my parents wouldn’t even let me throw a piece of chewed gum out the car window.   Even in school we learned “Don’t be a litterbug!”  Now everyone – including adults who should know better – uses the berm of our roads as their own personal waste can.

So I’m addressing the people who trash toss.  Why are you too lazy to carry your own trash home with you and dump it in your own garbage can?  Or why don’t you find a public garbage can – located in most shopping centers or outside most stores – in which to discard your Big Gulp cup?

Why do you think the rest of us want to see miles and miles of discarded refuse along the side of the road?  Why don’t you care enough about the beauty of our country to clean up after yourself?  If you want to live like a pig, that’s your business, but please take your trash home to your own pig sty.

To me, it’s a matter of respect.  Respect for the beauty of our country, respect for other people and yes, even respect for yourself.   That kind of respect doesn’t seem to exist.  Children aren’t learning it and they sure are not seeing it modeled by the adults in their lives.  Especially when you whip that empty Happy Meal carton out the van window, Mom and Dad!

I admire those who “adopt a highway” for clean-up; hubby’s civic organization is one group that cleans up a local roadway three times a year.  And believe me, there’s never an absence of trash for pick up!  Armed with garbage bags galore, these volunteers don work gloves and walk the line beside our roads picking up the trash that others thoughtlessly throw away.  That’s right, Mr. and Ms. Litterer, they pick up after you because you won’t pick up after yourself.

“America the Beautiful” has become America the trashed.  Our amber waves of grain are infiltrated with garbage.  Those purple mountain majesties have refuse up and down the roads that lead to them.   Our alabaster cities no longer gleam because litter lines the streets and sidewalks.

So what can you do?  Here are just a couple of suggestions:

  • Set an example for others, especially children, by not littering.
  • Carry a litter bag in your car and dispose of it properly, in your own garbage can.
  • Make sure outdoor trash cans have lids that can be securely fastened so your trash doesn’t blow all over the neighborhood.
  • If you or your family members belong to a civic organization, church group, scouting or recreational sports teams, encourage your group to “adopt a highway” and maintain it on a regular basis.  Or your own family could “adopt a highway.”

Today in Chapter 4, Page 5 (April 5) in my book of Opportunity (2011), we can all do our part to keep America beautiful and be the kind of citizens “who more than self their country loved.”

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

America the Beautiful (lyrics by Katharine Lee Bates, music by Samuel A. Ward)

O beautiful for spacious skies,

For amber waves of grain,

For purple mountain majesties

Above the fruited plain!

America! America!

God shed His grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for heroes prov’d

In liberating strife,

Who more than self their country loved

And mercy more than life.

America! America!

May God thy gold refine

Till all success be nobleness,

And ev’ry gain divine.

O beautiful for patriot dream

That sees beyond the years

Thine alabaster cities gleam

Undimmed by human tears.

America! America!

God shed His grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea.