By Abby Peloquin, VI Form
Patriotism Is My Life and Flag: I Support the Troops
Patriotism, to me, is far more than saying “I am an American” or putting a flag on your front porch. To be a patriot is to understand the past and present of this country, both good and bad. It is learning the history of our nation, from the pilgrims to George Washington to WWII, and accepting that even the greatest countries have their faults. It is seeing a veteran in Walmart and, although you’ve never met them, saying thank you. Patriotism is putting your hand on your heart for the Pledge of Allegiance every morning at 8am, even when you don’t quite understand the words yet. Being a patriot is a lifelong journey, and the people who understand that more than most are the members of our armed forces.
Before I imagine a bald eagle staring menacingly at our invisible enemies, I imagine soldiers in camo uniforms with guns gripped tightly in hand as they stand to attention. I imagine the jets flying overhead during the National Anthem, and the swell of voices as we call out “the land of the free.” I imagine my father, my brother, my uncles, and my grandfathers putting their lives on the line to defend each and every person on American soil; they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. The truest form of a patriot is the Army soldier, the Naval commander, the Marine captain, the Air Force pilot, the Coast Guard petty officer. Our country, great as it may be, would be nothing without the men and women who sacrificed and fought for our freedom. I am constantly reminded of these people every day; I see them when I walk into my father’s office, or when I visit him with his CVMA brothers, or when I go to the commissary and pass half a dozen men in wheelchairs proudly wearing a Vietnam Vet hat they haven’t replaced in 30 years.
There is no one event that has profoundly influenced my idea of patriotism or my country: my life has consistently been influenced. My life has been full of small events that have become a vast array of influences. There are, however, a few that stand out to me. I remember going to my brother’s graduation from boot camp, my tiny 3-year-old brain dumbfounded by the complex ceremony and the profound impact it had on my brother and parents. It says a lot when my mother bought notepaper with the photo of my brother and me in the top corner. It says even more when my brother gave me his dog tags, and I still hesitate before touching them because I recognize the incredible importance of them.
I remember going to the Marine Corps ball with my father and just beginning to grasp how important the Corps was to him. I would see remnants of it everywhere, from the special glasses on our bar, to the decorations and rank insignia enshrined in his office and on his dress blues. It was apparent when every Christmas or birthday he asked for history books around many historical military events, and we could easily get lost in conversation for hours about his time in Desert Storm, or the history of important battles in the World Wars, or how doing PT with an ingrown toenail really sucked during boot camp.
I remember sitting in the church pews on September 11th each year, watching a short montage of videos that were beyond my comprehension. I would always look at the American flag posted by the altar. Teachers around me would cry, and I realized that this singular event had an impact I had no way of seeing yet. But I cried anyway. Every single year, I couldn’t prevent a tear from making a track down my cheek, the images of people falling out of windows 25 stories high played over and over; the bloodshed of so many innocent people, all because extremists had twisted a religion to fit their violent and evil agenda.
I remember taking my first tour of Boston with my family, and the only place that stuck vividly in my brain for years was a small alleyway garden behind the Old North Church. On the right side, tucked in a small inlet of grass, was a huge round rack of dog tags. There had to be over 500 tags there, glittering in the soft afternoon light. A small collection of flowers were planted at the base of it, and a dozen or so little American flags were stuck in the ground around the structure. I just froze, unable to process the emotions I was feeling. I was staring at one of the most punctual belongings of over 500 individuals who gave their last breaths to defend their comrades and fellow citizens. They died for the greater good, the bigger cause they may not have fully understood. They gave everything so that I could wake up with absolutely no thought to the hell raging outside our borders. Years later as a teenager, I wandered the city until I found that same garden, and spent half an hour looking at the tags, silently thanking them for their service.
My perception of America and patriotism has evolved into a mature understanding and appreciation for sacrifice, love for one’s country, and striving for excellence in every aspect of life. Whether it’s on an individual level or global diplomacy, I continue to be lost in the sea of patriotism that oozes from the pores of this country. Even through war, slavery, and poverty, Americans have risen above and pushed through, paving a road of progress, love, and excellency. I’ve come to the realization that I am privileged by the citizenship I have, the identity that I proudly wear on my sleeve and my heart. I am proud to be in a military family. I am proud to be the daughter, niece, cousin, and sister of Marines. I am proud to be in a country that openly accepts and defends life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I am proud to be an American.
Abby Peloquin is a VI Form boarding student from Huntsville, AL. She enjoys music, forensic science, and ceramics.