I’ve been at a series of events recently at which the “Star-Spangled Banner” was played. I was surprised by my own emotional response.
I know as a musician that the song is at best flawed music, and it’s difficult to sing because of the range it requires. I know as a writer that the text is overwritten. It is, in short, an imperfect national anthem. So why does it move me so deeply?
Because of what it stands for. I’ve served beside men of all services. I’m alive today because of them. Some of them are alive today because of me. We put our lives on the line for the country we loved.
I’ve come to understand that the strongest bond possible among human beings comes when they fight side by side against a common enemy. As I said earlier, we don’t use the word “love” to describe our feelings. That’s too sentimental. But it is love, the strongest love I’ve ever experienced.
And as I grow older, my understanding of myself and my country deepens. I see that part of the reason that I love the United States of America is that I fought for her. And as I watch the unfolding story of other nations burdened by dictatorship and a lack of freedom, I cherish more than ever what we Americans have.
This is where my heart is. I will always be a patriot, not because I made a conscious decision, but because my fate and the nation’s fate are one.