By Mary Hunt Webb

Posted Sunday, July 3, 2011

When my husband, Morris, worked a week of midnight shifts at the local office of the National Weather Service, as he did every third week, things got quiet with only three people in the building. No amount of coffee could help them stay awake in a situation like that.

A photo of the Moon behind some clouds.

                           [Photo courtesy of Stockvault.net]

Because the structural steel in the building prevented good radio reception, they found it nearly impossible to locate a strong signal. Therefore, Morris and his co-workers looked for radio stations on the Internet to help them stay awake throughout the night.

One of their liveliest discoveries was the radio station, 6PR, in Perth, on the southwest coast of Australia. While my husband and his colleagues worked the graveyard shift, they listened to 6PR’s afternoon talk and variety program. The lively chatter on 6PR brightened up many long nights for Morris and his co-workers.

Since Morris and I had seen the Australian movie, “The Dish”, he sent an e-mail to the radio station telling them that we had enjoyed the film. With the approach of July 4th, the station sent back a request to interview us via telephone about our American Independence Day.

Because Morris was going in on the midnight shift, the station arranged to interview us a little after 10 p.m., our time. The first telephone call was from the show’s producer to brief us before the interview. When the phone rang again a few minutes later, the show’s hosts began chatting and asking us about our American holiday.

The program’s hosts wanted to know how we celebrated Independence Day in the United States. Did we have barbecues? Did we shoot off fireworks? Did we invite neighbors over to help us celebrate?

A photo of a fireworks display.

                           [Photo courtesy of Stockvault.net]

They did not ask us about any patriotic feelings we had nor did they give us an opportunity to express such sentiments. As expert interviewers, they directed the questions without giving us a chance to say anything of our own thoughts regarding the origins of our country.

That caused me to reflect. If given the opportunity to express my thoughts, what would I say about how I feel about my country?

Would I recall how I felt as a child when we sang “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee?”

Would I recount how I felt during college when my friend told of celebrating the Fourth of July in France one summer? I moved my head in sympathy when she told how strange it felt to observe that it was an ordinary workday there. Consequently, she and some other American students gathered in the evening to celebrate this country’s independence on foreign soil. Her account helped me to understand that American patriotism exists wherever Americans gather.

Maybe I would remember how tired and yet grateful I felt as a young mother when I stood holding our child in my arms during our community’s long Independence Day celebration. I felt my arms stretch in length as our son fell asleep, nestled in my embrace.

Perhaps I would recount the strange feeling I experienced when I walked along Embassy Row in Washington, D. C., and saw foreign flags fluttering over the embassies of their countries.

Or, I would tell of another visit to our nation’s capitol when I saw the names of my fallen countrymen embedded in the wall of the Vietnam Memorial.

Since that radio interview, other waves of patriotic feeling have surfaced. One of the most profound feelings was the intense homesickness that swept over me at the foot of Mount Cook on New Zealand’s South Island. As I gazed at the statue of Sir Edmund Hillary - the mountain climber that ascended Mount Everest after practicing on Mount Cook - my attention shifted to the fluttering flag of New Zealand off to the left.

A statue of Sir Edmund Hillary in front of The Hermitage Hotel, which is in Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, New Zealand.

                               [Photographer: Morris Webb]

When we later entered the nearby restaurant, the American accent of the waitress from Pennsylvania deepened my homesickness to a level that I had never before experienced. Although I had enjoyed our visit and New Zealand is a lovely country, I was ready to return home after 18 days away.

Suddenly, I longed to again see the Stars and Stripes waving from a flagpole. At that moment, it became a more beloved sight to me than ever before. Whatever others might say about the flaws of the United States, I knew I was proud to be an American.

Psalm 33:12 (NKJV)
12) Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,
         The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.

A photo of Old Glory.

                           [Photo courtesy of Stockvault.net]

Psalm 71:1 (KJV)
  1) In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion.

A photo of the back of a dollar bill.

                              [Photographer: Morris Webb]

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