Becoming A Patriot

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I was born into the military. Most of my life was spent overseas, on a small AF base in Japan. I never saw racism. I never saw true poverty. I never paid for a doctor bill. We didn’t even have tax at the BX. On base, we all had the same house, just a little different in layout and age. It was a little community. I walked everywhere, even off base. Overall, life there was safe. Clean. Orderly. It was a very sheltered environment.

If a civilian broke the law, especially a minor, they were usually sent ‘back to the States’. We all heard about it happening. The ones who feared authority feared getting sent back. The ones who hated life on this little base on an island would misbehave just to get sent back. As I grew up, I came to ‘hate’ the ‘States’ as I’ve heard of it. I didn’t remember it to know any better. I didn’t understand, or care to learn, what patriotism was/is. All I knew was I wasn’t proud of being an American because America was where the ‘bad’ kids went, therefore it must be a place run a-muck with criminals.

Our only theater on base would always play the National Anthem before a movie. We all stood, some placed hands over their hearts, the military men would stand almost at attention…it was an awesome sight. But over my teen years, I went from standing with my hand over my heart, to sitting in defiance. My friends would tell me to stand up. I would say “No, why should I? I’m not proud of America. I’m not gonna show respect for that.” I could cry as I type this. If I could go back to that wanna-be rebellious teen, I would smack some patriotism in her! My dad served this country for 26 years. America gave my mom a new life. God has graciously blessed me to be an American… and that was how I behaved.

My dad retired and we became civilians the summer before my last year of high school. What an eye opening experience. I have to say, civilian life back in the States did not help my unpatriotic attitude. I saw racism for the first time, even directed at my mom. It was directed at me in a sense since I am half Thai, and was the ‘weird’ new girl who didn’t know everybody since they’d been in diapers. I saw poverty. I saw wealth. I saw doctor bills. My dad struggled to find work. My mom struggled to find someone who would hire her. I remember my dad taking a janitor job at the local theater. A place in which my mom got a job, and then so did I.

We eventually settled into civilian life. I have to say that I was pretty apathetic to any sort of patriotism. I couldn’t have cared less about our country, its history, or the government. I was just a girl who missed her life in Japan and was doing her best to fit into ‘the States’.

Fast forward to 2001. I had graduated high school, met my husband, moved to a different state, and was going to school for Respiratory Therapy. I had an early morning Chemistry class and we all were waiting for our teacher, who was late. When she arrived, she looked frazzled and upset. She informed us that a plane had struck the World Trade Centers in NYC. I remember thinking “Dang. Sounds bad. I wonder if class will be cancelled…” She immediately switched gears and started class.

As soon as we dismissed, I sped home, for some reason, and turned on the news, I suppose out of pure curiosity. I suddenly felt sick. I don’t know why, considering I had been pretty apathetic all these years. But I’m also a person known for her empathy. The horror I saw, the details I heard… I felt sick is all I can say. I called my husband and asked if he knew about what had happened. He informed me with as much information that he could, including the rumors of it being an attack, which ignited my first twinge of rage.

When I went to class two days later, the rumor of terrorists was pretty much a fact. I remember this idiot girl sitting in front of me who thought she knew everything about this situation. She yakked incessantly about the religion of peace, and how she was gonna read about it, how she had checked out some books on Islam… I remember thinking “are you CRAZY?!”.

Each day after September 11, 2001, as they told of the tragedy, the little seed of patriotism grew:

I learned of the Islamic terrorists who planned this attack as well as other targets of attacks. How they hated us Americans, saw us as infidels, and gave up their lives in order to see a mass number of Americans lose theirs…

I saw the enormous clean up efforts and I remember calling the hotline, asking them to use me. That I just wanted to help. I would pick up pieces of concrete if they needed. But I didn’t have any skills that they could use or needed at the time…

I saw how the firemen, police, military, and ordinary citizens united… I saw President George W. Bush speak to those dust and debris covered Americans working tirelessly at what was called Ground Zero…

Patriot: a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion. (Dictionary.com)

I became a patriot of the United States of America on 9/11/01. Never forget.

Soldier on!

P.S.
9/11 birthed my patriotism, but it also gave me a love for NYC. Although a left-leaning blue state with its own share of ‘baggage’, I fell in love with it. My first trip there was in May of 2008. My first visit to Ground Zero and the 9/11 fire museum broke my heart. To know I was walking on ground where people were basically cremated alive, where the towers I saw fall on tv, hit by AA Flight 11 and UA Flight 175, once stood in this huge gaping hole, where the fire station I was standing in assisted in that tragedy… The emotions inside of me were unexplainable… I know AA Flight 77 hit the Pentagon and UA Flight 93 crashed in PA, the target possibly being the White House, were all part of that tragic day, and one day I will visit those sites and memorials. However NYC stuck out to me. I will be visiting there in September, my fourth time to NYC. This will be the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Comments
  1. Did you go on to become a Respiratory Therapist? 🙂

  2. ron0540 says:

    I now understand more than you would believe. After I got out of the service I moved to Japan to go to school. I lived in Osaka for about 3 1/2 years and Tokyo for almost 2 years. I never felt so safe anywhere in my life. Of course I had just finished three tours in Vietnam, so I was kinda paranoid for awhile. I buried everything Vietnam deep inside myself for a long time. Japan was the perfect place to adjust to life outside the military. Safe, busy, fun, safe and yes, so safe. My life as a military brat did allot teaching me how to adjust to new places and people. So, I really get where you are coming from. Looking at the United States from most foreign countries will not give one a very favorable view of the United States. 9/11 brought the patriotism out in most Americans I think.. From reading your “Becoming a Patriot” post, I commend you for your ability to separate fact from rhetoric.
    I really appreciate your posting a major transformation in your life. Not always easy to share, but I have foun it to be very cathartic.
    Thank You Jai
    Ron

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