The following content is commentary and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
A couple of weeks ago my husband and I went to the Reno Rodeo. We were guests of the Northern Nevada Dairymen’s Association, who has for several years been a sponsor of the “Wildest, Richest Rodeo In The West.” As the American flag came into the arena carried by a girl dressed in sequins and perched on a horse, tears began streaming down my face as the melody to the famous song “Proud To Be An American” started playing through the arena speakers. As another flag girl stared at me in confusion, tears continued while a young girl from Carson City sang the national anthem.
This is nothing new for me. I cry during the national anthem almost every time I hear it. To put that in context, I live close enough to Naval Air Station Fallon that I hear the national anthem play nearly every morning at 8 a.m.
Why the tears that night?
Not because our country is experiencing pain, anger and hate right now, although that is certainly true. Not because for months immigrant children were being taken from their parents while they were trying to seek safety and the same freedoms my great grandfather sought in coming to America, although that is also true. And, as a mother I’ve prayed through many tears on many days for those families. I didn’t cry then out of fear of what lies ahead for friends, family and our economy as we wade into the volatile waters of trade war, although that is certainly a concern.
That night I cried in part because all across this country, there are families who want nothing more than to grow food for their neighbors. They want to produce milk for their kids and your kids. They want to provide jobs in rural areas and sponsor little league teams and pass out cheese sticks during the Fourth of July parade.
And you know what? Every day they are being told by their bank account that they can’t do that anymore.
Every day more dairies are going out of business. It’s happening for a multitude of reasons and there isn’t an easy solution to making it stop, but you should know that all they want to do is feed you, and take care of their cows, and live the life they’ve dreamed of and loved since they were children and they can’t.
I cry during the national anthem because I love our country. Despite all the messiness, pain, hate and anger, our sweet country is a land of opportunity and privilege. One of prosperity and hope. At her best, she fights for justice and peace, and provides a safe haven and refuge for the weary.
See, for me, the national anthem is tied specifically to one day that I get the privilege of reliving over and over. It was March 2002 and I was in the 8th grade. I was in New York City to sing with my middle school choir as part of the 2002 National Children’s Choir. We decided to visit ground zero and once we arrived determined the most appropriate thing in that moment would be to sing the national anthem. So our group of 12 started singing. Much to our surprise, the rescue workers stopped what they were doing and turned their attention to the flag flying high above the rubble. What’s more, a man wearing a WWII Veteran’s cap and sitting in a wheel chair stood up with tears in his eyes and saluted the flag.
Every time I hear that sweet melody I see that man’s face. I see the pride, the love and the sacrifice he made for his country and I’m overcome with gratitude that I had the privilege of being born in America.
Gratitude. That’s why I cry during the national anthem, and I hope you do too.