A patriot, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is a person who loves and strongly supports and/or fights for his or her country and its interests with devotion.
Our country was built on the principle of democracy, in which all citizens are free to embrace their own individual stance. In the end, though, patriotism is that one unifying factor that calls for people to stand together. We are called to take pride in our nation and proudly support what it stands for: freedom, equality and hard work, whether a soldier, a politician or an everyday citizen.
One is not a patriot by simply being born in a country. One has to desire and decide to become a patriot. To become true patriots, we must willingly and intentionally develop a love for the country we call our home and support the principles it stands for.
I was born in Colombia and have been living in the States for almost half of my life. My decision to become an American citizen was born out of the desire to make a public declaration to embrace the American ideals as mine, to respect them and defend them when necessary. I have adopted this stance in my everyday life, whether publicly or privately. I believe that being a patriot requires to honor all the things that represent this nation and all its inhabitants, including the history, law, customs, language and values.
This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day. It is an opportunity to show our utmost respect for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice standing up for and defending America’s core interests. I believe I would not be able to call myself an American if it wouldn’t be for those who have surrendered it all to give me the opportunity to be here, dream the dream and achieve so much more than I could ever imagine. Life may not be perfect but it is free, and by free I don’t mean cheap, on the contrary, a very costly freedom.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13. Whether they know this or not, a soldier is the ultimate disciple. Their desire to serve, their discipline and dedication to push through, and their total renounce for all they left behind embody self-denial like not many actions can. They live a life that is not theirs, they surrender all who they are and what they know to give themselves for what they believe is right and just. And in the end, they even die for it. The ultimate disciple.
Let us all take a moment out of our busy schedules on this weekend to reflect on the depth and true meaning of this holiday. We may or may not agree with war, but the truth is that war exists and myriads of human lives have been left on the battlefield, and many more are on the trenches right now, for an idea, a hope, a conviction.
In my humble opinion, veterans and soldiers everywhere deserve to be recognized every day as a never-ending source of pride. A simple “thank you” or any kind act you may think of runs short in the honor they deserve.
Becoming a patriot is more than a full-time commitment. It is a conviction that should be carried around daily, always. Show respect for your national anthem and your flag, support your country’s troops 100 percent, and find ways to give back to the community when possible — not only with your money, but something much more valuable, yourself. It is personal, it is voluntary and thus, it is reflective of what the United States is built on: individual freedom and choice.
Johanna Eccles, a local health coach and motivational speaker, can be reached at JohannaForero@mac.com