The "and" in the Star Spangled Banner

I've been reflecting a lot this Fourth of July weekend on freedom--its costs and benefits. Reading the stories about the special forces troops killed in Afghanistan, the terrorist attacks in Iraq (and boy am I SICK of hearing the attackers called "insurgents" on the news), and watching soldiers leaving and returning from their missions, I've been reminded to stop to appreciate and give thanks for the sacrifices that got us to where we are as a nation.

Recently we took our kids to the East Coast for a senior trip. While we were in Washington, we went to the Korean War Memorial. It's the first time I've been to DC in nearly twenty years, and thus my first chance to see the memorial. My dad fought in Korea more than 50 years ago. Frankly I didn't expect the emotional impact of the memorial to be so great. Thankfully, my father came home safe and sound, met my mom and had me. Yet seeing those statues of soldiers making their way across a frozen battlefield filled my heart with pride and thanks for his willingness to answer the call of duty. Even though he did not have to pay what Lincoln called the "last full measure of devotion," he joined a long line of American heroes who have defended our nation at home and around the world.

Every verse of The Star Spangled Banner ends by talking about "the land of the free AND the home of the brave." We saw the original flag from Fort McHenry at the Smithsonian on our trip as well--the same flag that Francis Scott Key watched as it "gave proof through the night." On this July 4th, it's fitting to stop and remember that the USA will only continue to be the land of the free if it continues to be the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when free-men shall stand
Between their lov'd home and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

(It wouldn't hurt if we'd quit trying to get rid of God either, but that's a topic for another day.)


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