Happy summer, everyone! June 21 marked the summer solstice, the longest day of the year and the official beginning of summer.
Alabamians know that summer arrives early here. We’re already getting a taste of the “dawg days” – those wonderful stretches when temperatures and humidity both approach triple digits! After living for years on the New England seacoast with its cool, refreshing ocean breezes, I will admit I am still having trouble re-acclimating to the Alabama air you can wear. But even that heat and humidity won’t dampen our summer spirits!
Of course, for many of us, Memorial Day really marks the beginning of summer. That long weekend at the end of May is usually filled with tremendous family moments, parades, cookouts and great outdoor activities. But let us never forget the real meaning of Memorial Day – remembering those who have given their lives in service of our country.
Now Independence Day is upon us. With the Fourth of July falling mid-week this year, I’m sure many of us will be stretching the holiday into family vacations. Shari and I are planning a visit to our family in Georgia, spending some time on the lake, watching fireworks and remembering what Independence Day truly is about.
My dad is a bit of an ancestry buff, and he’s done a great job of researching the Miller family tree. He traced our roots back to Hampton, New Hampshire, where Aquila Chase arrived from England in 1639. Aquila was my great-great-great-great grandfather (honestly, I don’t know how many “greats” to include) and was a founder of the town I just happened to make my home 372 years later! When I think of Independence Day, I can’t help but think about Aquila Chase and the other brave newcomers who built our country, fought for freedom, and created the greatest nation on the globe.
As a young man I served in the United States Air Force, and I’m proud to have grown up in a family with a long history of military service. My older brother is a Navy veteran, my dad was an Air Force officer, and all three of my mother’s brothers served in the military, including one who was a prisoner of war in Korea. My paternal grandfather immigrated to our country as a small child and went on to serve in the U.S. Army in both World Wars. One of my favorite family stories is that as he marched toward Paris with American troops in 1944, he was given a homemade American flag by an ecstatic young French woman, joyful and thankful for the Allied liberation of France and overwhelmed by our country’s selfless dedication to doing what is right.
That hand-sewn flag is still proudly displayed today in the Miller home, and every time I look at it I’m reminded of all that makes our country so special and great. Just as France regained its freedom in 1944, our own country declared its independence in 1776 – and won it only after a long, deadly and divisive war with England. Then, as in every other chapter of its history, our nation of immigrants has continuously demonstrated its greatness and deep commitment to human values. As we celebrate the Fourth of July and savor the spirit of summer, let’s also take a moment to count our blessings, reflect on the sacrifices so many have made on our behalf, and remember the words of our founding fathers:
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. [See full text here]
Enjoy your summer and God Bless America!
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