Last year I wrote an article concerning events that transpired on the fourth; events that struck me as “odd”. I left with the observation that it would be “hard to top these next year.”
Well, its next year. And I think this Fourth certainly topped last year’s.
Last year it was all about events of the world that just happened to come together in such a way to make a strange kind of “sense” in light of events that take place on the fourth. This year, it was all about family.
It started off with my daughter, Danielle, singing the National Anthem at Sea World here in San Antonio.
Every year, on Independence Day, Sea World has someone open the park with a singing of the National Anthem. Typically this is done by professional singers hired to come and perform. This year, Sea World decided to hold auditions among their employees, and pick four; one to open on the Fourth, the others to open each of the next three days. Danielle auditioned and, as she didn’t hear from anyone for several days, assumed that she had not made the cut. Instead, she was selected to lead the pack.
Ok, so it isn’t “American Idol.” Still, it’s an honor to sing the National Anthem at any public venue. And singing it at Sea World was special. We live right behind the park. All of my kids have worked there once they were old enough to do so, beginning with my oldest daughter Serena, and oldest son John Allen (he who “guarded the shallow waters”). Jessica works there now as well. Once Amanda and Joshua are old enough, they will probably work there too.
After she sang, we toured the park. Doing so with someone who actually works there is very different from doing so as an “ordinary tourist”; you get the “inside story” on everything. “Well, this sea lion is 27 years old, has a small bulge under his right fin, and likes to chew his fish from the left side of his mouth”, and stuff like that. Absolutely fascinating.
No really, it was great. Danielle’s coworkers treated us very well. They were all very proud of her, and of the fact that she worked (or had worked, in the case of those in the area where she had transferred from) in their AOR. (By the way, AOR is “militaryese” for “Area of Responsibility”. I know that Sea World isn’t a military theater of operations, but somehow it just seems more natural to say “AOR” instead of spelling it out.) They went out of their way to make sure that this was a special day for us as well as Danielle. Sea World is a great place, and the folks who work at Sea World are the greatest.
We had a really good day at Sea World. Normally this time of year, it would be around 95 degrees out with the sun beating down. But thanks to global warming, it was overcast instead, with a light rain from time to time and temperatures in the 70’s. I don’t know if Sea World management was thrilled, as there were not as many people about as there probably should have been on the Fourth of July, but we were very comfortable, and the lines for the rides were much shorter than usual.
After spending hours at Sea World, checking out the shows, rides, eating, and lots of walking around, we headed back home where, once we arrived, I headed upstairs for a short nap. What everyone else did, I have no idea.
Following my nap, we hopped in the car and went to Lackland AFB to watch the free Tops in Blue concert. For those who don’t know, Tops in Blue is a traveling Air Force group of performers. These are not professional entertainers, though you would not know that from watching them. They are regular folks, with regular jobs in the active duty Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard, who auditioned to join Tops in Blue, were selected, and went through an intensive two month training period to teach them what they need to know to be not just singers, but entertainers. This is followed by a nine month whirlwind world tour of every Air Force base in the world, including such romantic spots as Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan and Balad Air Base, Iraq
The Tops in Blue concert was outstanding. This year is the 60th anniversary of the United States Air Force, which was established as a separate service in 1947. The concert featured newsreel footage, music, and period costuming in ten year increments from 1947 to 2007. It ended with the traditional singing of Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to Be an American”, followed by the Air Force Song.
It was a great performance, made all the more special because we knew some of the performers.
On the way home, we watched fireworks popping in all directions in the distance over San Antonio and surrounding area. When we got back, the kids and their friends went to a designated safe area (fireworks are illegal in the city limits – and we live within the city limits) to shoot off a few sky rockets and mortar shells of their own. Finally, as all things do, it all wound down, and we went to bed.
This is the way the Fourth of July should be celebrated, with friends and family; remembering the sacrifices made by the founders of our country and the continuing sacrifices made by those who serve in uniform today. From the solemnity of the singing of the National Anthem, remembering why it was written and what it stands for, to the excitement of the fireworks; the wonder in the eyes of those watching this entertaining form of “the bombs bursting in air”. And remembering too those who stand in harm’s way, who see the real “bombs bursting in air” so that we at home can enjoy the more peaceful version on Independence Day.
The bad guys are still out there; Kim Jung the ill, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Osama bin Laden, to name a few. Ok, we’ll throw in Hugo “the Yugo” Chavez as well. Why do I call him “the Yugo”? At present, I would classify him as “bad guy light”, much in the same way that the Yugo was a “light” version of a real automobile. In the words of the immortal weird Al, he “may be Vader some day later, but now he’s small fry”. Still, he is trying very hard to make it to the “bad guy big time”, so we’ll throw him a bone for now, and hope like heck that he and others like him living in our back yard remain in the bush league (pun intended).
But for this day, the day we celebrated as the 231st anniversary of American independence, our eyes are focused on the past, on those who pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to secure their posterity the blessings of liberty and freedom; on the present, as we who are their posterity honor those who stand today in harm’s way to preserve those same blessings for us and our posterity; and on the future, to carry forward the torch of liberty and freedom to all corners of the globe, so that the ideals of government of the people, by the people, and for the people can be shared by all mankind, ensuring that these inalienable rights do not perish from the face of the earth.