TRAVEL THERE: AMERICANS ABROAD
Happy Fourth of July! I love my country and I’m grateful to those who sacrificed to build this great nation. I’m particularly proud of the men and women who still serve in our military. How can we help but to throw back our shoulders and lift up our chests in pride? For most Americans the Fourth of July is all about picnics and fireworks, but my favorite memory of this holiday happened on another continent.
Celebrating America, Over There
It was a gorgeous night. Twinkling stars gamboled in an ultramarine sky. Tall trees swayed in a soft breeze. Red and white tablecloths covered wooden picnic tables. But we weren’t lakeside at an American wienie roast. We were in a German Beergarden.
Germans love to sing. I’ve been in their country several times and I’m always amazed by how quickly they’ll break into song. First one person will lift their voice and then they’ll be joined by everyone around. On this particular night we were enjoying an songfest, along with some brats and brew. We Americans had no idea what was being sung; we just knew it was lovely, so we clapped enthusiastically after every number. After a few rousing choruses of German singing we tried to convey our appreciation in a hodge podge of gestures, English and badly pronounced German. The Germans spoke English much better than we spoke German and they were soon insisting that we sing.
We compared notes and quickly discovered we shared little similarity in our musical tastes. One American would throw out a song title only to get blank stares from the rest of the table. Finally, someone said,”It’s the Fourth of July, we could sing something patriotic.” Someone else said, “I think I know all the words to God Bless America.” Another American said, “Yeah and then we can do the Star Spangled Banner.”
With fear and trepidation, Mr. God Bless America began singing and the rest of us joined in as we could. By the chorus we were all well-tuned to one another and making a good performance of it. Then, we stood as one and began to sing, “O-oh say can you see…” By the time the bombs were bursting in air, the Germans around us began to stand one-by-one in honor of their visitors’ nation. A crowd began to gather at the edge of the beer garden and people had come out to the balconies of a near by hotel. After we musically declared America as the land of the free and the home of the brave, the crowd began to applaud and kept applauding for what seemed a very long time.
I’ll never forget that night. The Star Spangled Banner is no longer just something I sing at football games. Whenever I sing our national anthem, I remember the pride I felt at that shining moment, many years ago, in a faraway place. I see people all over the world burn our flag and carry placards against us, but they are strangers on a TV screen. For me, that night in Germany, the world was honoring America and Americans. I’m proud to be an American. Very proud.