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I’m not a big soccer fan. I don’t understand the game much and can only think of one match I ever watched start to finish, when the US women won the 1999 World Cup on a kick by Brandi Chastain.

Yet, as World Cup fever has built over the past week, I have found myself rooting on the red, white, and blue of the USA soccer team. I still don’t sit down and watch these games, but I fervently hope the USA puts on a good show and continues to advance. As I write this, they have advanced to the knockout round, so hopefully as you read this, they will be taking another step.

Why do I care as someone who professes to not enjoying soccer? National pride, plain and simple. The same thing applies during the Olympics; I don’t watch gymnastics any other time except during the summer games. As the Fourth of July bears down on us, it’s a good time to reflect on patriotism and what it means to be an American.

While I have never served in the military, I’m proud that my Grandpa Domeier, Uncle Larry, and father-in-law Mike Granowski all served. I’ve known many others who have been in the military and been involved in conflicts overseas, and I salute every one of these men and women. To be free is such a privilege and honor, and we must constantly remember what it has taken to get us to this point in America.

I’ve mentioned before how much I admire people who sing our National Anthem at sporting events. If someone is singing, I will refrain, but when it is a recording or the band is playing, I will belt it out with pride, no matter how much I might mangle the song. I’ve always been a little disappointed that we are only required to say the Pledge of Allegiance once a week in public schools; I recall with fondness that daily moment when I was in school.

I enjoy when Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and the Fourth of July roll around and I’m picking out music for church. It gives me a reason to have at least one patriotic song, whether it’s “America the Beautiful”, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, or “God Bless America.” These are always times that I hear the congregation singing loudly, and it makes me proud to be an American.

Do we take our freedom for granted? I’m sure we do at times. One should sit and think about what it would be like if the British had won or Hitler had taken over. Look around the world and read about countries that not only don’t have as much material goods, but also don’t have the right to complain about that fact for fear of retribution from the military and/or government.

I’m always amused when I scroll through Facebook and see people railing against President Obama. How many countries in our world would allow you to do that so publically? I always wonder how many of those people complaining voted for him once or twice. (Not voting at all gives you absolutely no right to complain. If you couldn’t be bothered to show up to the polls, a right you are given in our country, keep your mouth shut.) I often think that these same people might find cause to complain no matter who occupies the Commander-in-Chief’s role, and they probably also had problems with George W. Bush when he was in office.

When these patriotic days roll around, don’t just think about what you’re going to throw on the grill or how you get a day off work. Please think about why you have the means to buy that steak or those brats and why you might even get paid for not showing up to work. Remember the people who have suffered to make our country free and those who continue to work to keep that freedom.

Please show respect for our flag at parades and really, anytime you see it, and remove your hat. It’s the first thing I taught my son when he started wearing a baseball cap, and he dutifully removes his hat and places it over his heart when he sees Old Glory. Show respect to our veterans and those still serving. Say a prayer of thanks to God for the blessings we have, freedom being at or near the top of that list. Enjoy the holiday and stay safe!

Word of the Week: This week’s word is pungle, which means to make a payment, as in, “American soldiers have pungled out many lives to secure our freedom.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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