If you had asked me a few years ago, ‘what holiday represents love to you,’ like most people, my automatic answer would’ve been Valentine’s Day. For most Americans, that is exactly how they feel. Chocolates, love letters and fine dining have come to define our national day of love.
But for my military husband and me, we had a change of heart last Fourth of July weekend.
Our Origin Story
The prospect of starting our life together overseas was chaotic and exhilarating all at once. That turned into reality when over one Fourth of July weekend, surrounded by family and friends, my soldier and I became husband and wife.
Looking back, I had no idea how significant the Fourth of July would be to our family. It represents the origin of our love story, the origin of our country and the beginning of our lives of service. We immediately moved to Italy so my husband could serve at the U.S. Army Garrison Italy in the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
Living over here in Italy, I’ve been able to see firsthand how the military defends our American freedoms. Seeing my husband and his colleagues in action is amazing. It has solidified how proud I am to be an American, and it inspired me to find a way to serve our country as well.
It all began with a rapid deployment that my husband was a part of. He received it on Jan. 3 and within 30 minutes, he was gone. It was frightening on my end, but he was excited and ready for whatever came his way.
Since this happened so fast and there was no timeline for the troops’ return, our men and women needed supplies like snacks, personal hygiene items, wet wipes, shower shoes and lip balm. I connected with the American Red Cross on base and decided to dive right into volunteering.
This was a healthy distraction while my husband was away, and an invaluable opportunity to help our service members. My job was to go through and help sort these items, wrap and package them up and send them out each day. It was an amazing effort and outpouring of support for our troops. This act of service increased a love for my country.
Our Celebration of Love
This year, as Fourth of July quickly approaches, I can’t believe it’s already been one year since my husband and I began our journey together. This will be our first year to celebrate our American independence outside of the U.S.
I will, undoubtedly, miss being with our family and friends. We have the tradition of spending all day out on the lake boating or lying by the pool, grilling with a large assortment of food and beverages at hand. My father-in-law served in the Army, my brother-in-law is in the Marines and my sister-in-law is in the Navy. So naturally, our family does everything big, even the fireworks!
We will be sure to incorporate some traditions of grilling out or even grabbing a few sparklers to keep the tradition alive. But overall, the appreciation of being an American resides within us now and that is what the Fourth of July holiday is truly all about – pride of our independence and country. We have learned so much in the past year as Americans living overseas!
I recently read a quote from former President John Adams as he wrote to first lady Abigail Adams where he hoped Independence Day would, “be celebrated by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival” with “illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.”
For my husband and me, that rings so true. I wish I could tell President Adams that as I celebrate my family’s anniversary of love this Fourth of July, I also recognize that the Declaration of Independence was our Founding Father’s love letter to us.
For our military family, Independence Day is the great reminder that love is spelled F-R-E-E-D-O-M.