Fireworks and cookouts, bug spray and yard games, potato salad and some kind of patriotic jello creation mark will my 4th of July celebration like many other Americans. This year, is something special though. We have more to remember, more to be thankful for and more to hope for.
Two years ago this July 4th, my brother got married. It was a crash course in wedding planning as my sister, sister-in-law-to-be and I power walked the mall in order to assemble some kind of wedding ceremony – dresses, shoes, a gown, a veil, manicures, and even some time for appetizers as my sister-in-law expressed her fears of my brother’s deployment to come only a few days after the wedding. A few family members gathered in their basement to witness their exchange of vows. The newlyweds then changed – my brother out of his dress uniform, my sister-in-law out of her wedding gown – and served burgers and brats and wedding cake. We waited for the fireworks to begin. As they exploded in the night sky, glistening off of the bride’s tear-filled eyes, we all feared for my brother’s latest (the 3rd ) deployment, this time to Afghanistan.
One year ago this July 4th, my sister-in-law celebrated her first anniversary without her husband. Only a few days earlier, she had received a call that the truck he was driving had struck an I.E.D. (Improvised Explosive Device). The truck was totaled, one soldier was carried out with a concussion and would later lose his legs, one soldier walked away stunned and my brother, with a severely broken leg and ankle. For several days, we did not know what country he was in as the military made arrangements for surgery. Though I came to comfort my sister-in-law and be with her on their first anniversary, she again served me the traditional 4th of July feast – potato salad, burgers and brats. Her eyes filled with tears again as fireworks filled the night sky.
This July 4th, my brother and his wife will spend together with their 3 month old daughter. He boasts of 9 pins in his ankle now, but gets around just fine and will no doubt be helping my sister-in-law grill a fine celebratory feast for their first anniversary together. We have much to thank God for, besides the potato salad, food, fun and fireworks.
Have a happy and safe 4th of July. Spend it with those you love.