The Fourth of July
There in a farm field, under the beautiful night sky, I experienced one of those moments you hope will flash before your eyes as the final breath is released from the lungs. It was in the small town of Mattoon, Ill., and the day was July 4, our precious Independence Day. I was with the boys from NCO Alley, their wives and a beautiful girl whom I now call my girl.
We sat in lawn chairs on a roadside near an American red farm house. For miles, a sea of lush green is all we could see. Then night fell and the bright stars glowed on us.
The three men were all scared of what came when the night sky arrived. Since we’ve been home, fireworks have not been our friend. The bursts remind of us of mortars falling nearby and bottle rockets sound exactly like a 107 mm rocket flying overhead. But we had to be there, to see our first Fourth of July celebration since our return home. We guzzled enough beer to numb our initial jump or twitch, and most importantly, we all had our significant other there to rub our heads, to calm us. Then, the fireworks began. They lasted for 45 minutes, and with each blast rather than feeling scared, I felt joy. With each colorful display, I thought of how much I love my country. I thought of the girl sitting beside me, and my feelings for her. But most of all, I thought of my friends who died for the green crops, the little kids and the farm houses that make up America.
And for the first time, a tear or a sad feeling didn’t overcome me when I thought of T & Mitts. Rather a smile. It’s as if they were looking down from heaven, watching the country they died for and patting me on the back.
When the fireworks were over, I saw a cute little girl with her family. She held Old Glory close to her face. The image stopped me for a moment. And as I stood there, I hoped the feeling would never end. I took a mental picture of the fireworks, the flag and little girl, and the joy shared between friends. This Fourth of July had new meaning.