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May 1965, Dawn, New York Harbor

I was sound asleep in our stateroom when my mother shook me awake. Groggy and a bit cranky I noticed it was still dark outside through the portholes and that my mother was already fully dressed. With great urgency she tells me to get my sweater on and hurry up and follow her. I could tell it was something important for my mother to let me out of the room still in my pajamas so I quickly did as I was told. She scooped up my still sleeping baby sister and we made our way upstairs to one of the main public lounges with the big picture windows. She told me to stand on one of the banquettes under the windows so I could see better.

I still wasn’t sure what it was she wanted me to see but I hopped up and looked out. I saw twinkling lights and knew we were almost there! And then I saw it… It was so beautiful! Lady Liberty all lit up with green glowing lights. I was awestruck at seeing something I had only heard about or seen in pictures or movies. Here it was right here in front of my eyes! Our ship had slowed way down and was silently gliding past our official welcoming committee of one. Somehow the significance and beauty of that moment was not lost on me and I remember it as vividly as if it happened yesterday. I looked over at my mom. She was silently hugging my sister and her eyes were filled with tears. I am forever grateful to her for dragging me out of bed that morning. It is a memory that will never leave me and one that I cherish to this day.

Even before I ever went to school, or learned about our history, the flag, or the constitution my parents instilled in me a love for this country and gratitude for everything it has done for us. On its worst day this country is still the best in the world. We need to take care of it, give back to it, be proud of it, and NEVER, take it for granted. God Bless America.

Happy 4th of July everyone…

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