Patriotism – a lesson in freedom

Published 8:02 am Thursday, March 14, 2013

It’s good to see the Murfreesboro Veterans Memorial will expand, even in the slightest way.

Last month the Murfreesboro Town Council approved the addition of two flag poles to be added to the memorial, one for the state flag and the other for a POW/MIA flag. Lights will also be installed along with brick and cement work to support the structures.

Yes, it’s the slightest of expansions, but for Murfreesboro’s veterans it’s a tangible place of honor for them in the place they call home. And even after they’re gone the stone will forever bear their names, therefore their legacy in their country’s history.

So this addition of the state flag and, especially, the POW/MIA flag will only add to this memorial for those that have served.

Patriotism now a day comes in the form of a bitter pill. It’s often hard to see through the polarized politics, pundits and lobbyists and realize how blessed we are with the freedoms we have.

But for veterans, current military members and the families that support them on a day to day basis, being prideful of their country is second nature.

Of the very few memories I have of my grandfather I remember his tattoos. I do not remember what they said or what shape they were, but I do remember there were many of them and they used to line both of his arms.

He was just my “Papa,” as I used to call him, who took me to Frankie’s, the local gas station, for root beer popsicles and brought home bullheads from SodusBay in a large white bucket.

It took me years to learn those tattoos were from his time in the Navy and it took me years to realize my grandfather was a war veteran and what exactly being a veteran meant.

He entered the military when he was just a teenager before the United States got involved with World War II.  For my grandfather it was a way to break away from his abusive family life and be of service to his country. His older brother Clarence, whom he was close to, had done the same.

At first Papa was stationed at a naval base in Upstate New York before he got orders sending him to Pearl Harbor.

Before Papa left he caught up with Clarence. That day Clarence told my grandfather it would be the last time they would see each other, and it was. Clarence was killed while removing ammunition from a truck in Sicily.

Papa barely missed the attack on Pearl Harbor that left more than 2,400 dead. He was shipped out over the equator days before.

Most of his time after that was spent on a naval ship in the Pacific Ocean until after the war ended.

My grandfather never liked to talk about his time in the Navy; whether he saw something that scarred him mentally or emotionally is something my family will never know. Most of his war time stories died along with him.

All that is left is a framed picture of the ship he served on that hangs on my mom’s dining room wall and a few photos from Hawaii with his naval buddies and an assortment of hula girls. My grandmother always made sure those photos were buried in the back of a closet.

But his patriotism for his country lasted throughout his whole life. He loved to see an American flag flying in the breeze and attended every Memorial Day and Veterans Day parade in his hometown.

That sense of patriotism is something that should act as a lesson for all of us.

The people who serve in the military often get caught under the wheels of politics, the media and, at times, the disregard of others.

One of the purest forms of patriotism is being on the front line for your country. Not many of us civilians can say we crossed the ocean or risked our lives for the United States.

Instead we sit calmly in our homes, voicing our opinions about war with very little thought of who is out there fighting for the freedom we all too often take for granted.

I’m not sure what my grandfather would say about the current conflicts our country is facing, but one thing I’m sure he would do is think of those who were out there and the ones that were lost along the way.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: or call (252) 332-7209.