Thursday, July 7, 2011

Celebrating Freedom

Only in America

Nothing says “America” like a good old-fashioned 4th of July parade. Is there anything more patriotic, not to mention amazing, than being on a street with crowds of thousands of people who rise to their feet and actually stand in silence, hand over hearts, as our military representatives march by carrying our nation’s beautiful flag?

There are few things in summer I love like the Freedom Festival parade in Provo, Utah. We try to visit there every year to enjoy the festivities. From the first sound of the motorcycle police brigade doing their drill formations at the head of the parade, to the firing of the George Q. Cannon from the BYU ROTC at the end of the parade, I feel like I am in patriotic paradise.

Every high school marching band that shuffles by playing military marches and “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” every Star Wars costume-clad storm trooper each holding one of our 50 states’ flags, every convertible carrying Congressmen and Council members, and every glittery float with “scholarship contest” beauties from surrounding towns, all remind me of the many freedoms and joys we celebrate as a nation, especially this time of year.

But maybe the most surprisingly moving part of the whole parade is the crowd of what seems like hundreds of Mormon missionaries walking together down the parade route dressed in their white shirts and ties and their little black name tags. The hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the sidewalks give the greatest cheers to these young men and women out representing their church and serving their Lord. Children rush into the road to give high-five’s to every passing missionary they can possibly reach. Whistles, shouts, cheers, and wild clapping echo all the way up the street as they approach and follow them like waves as they pass.

Perhaps they’re the favorites of the crowd not only because of their Mormon heritage in a Mormon town, but because these young men and women represent everything this great nation was founded upon—hard work, sacrifice, freedom of religion, and faith in God. It’s no wonder children are screaming for them like they’re rock stars and mothers are watching them with tears in their eyes while fathers are swallowing the lumps in their throats. This is patriotism at its finest, and what blessings of liberty we have to celebrate in this great nation! May we all do our part to preserve them.

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