Chapter 4. With Feet Planted: Learning Respect for Our Country

If I'm being honest, I'll admit that my respect for this nation took root in the middle of a gymnasium before a high school basketball game.

My Dad, in his famously "subtle" style, let me know in no uncertain terms that I was to stand at attention during the singing of "The Star Spangled Banner," paying respect to those men and women who wore their uniforms proudly in defense of our country.

"Never let me see you move during the National Anthem," he hissed, finger to my face. Looking into those dark eyes, I knew I'd better plant my feet and get serious. No gum snapping. No hair twirling. No checking the time on the clock or staring at the cute boy from Algebra class. Because somewhere, somehow—Dad was watching.

In my estimation, the marrow in the bones of the average Midwesterner holds a deep, long-standing sense of patriotism. They possess a solid and unwavering love for this country and what it stands for: Hard work, freedom, human ingenuity, courage, innovation, dreams, and endless possibilities. The people who have moved in and out of our story have modeled that kind of devotion time and time again, influencing my father from his childhood. The summer he was drafted was one of pride and honor for him, accompanied, certainly, with a measure of fear. Serving our country was seen as a duty to country.

In December of 1961, my Dad came home on leave from his tour of duty during the Berlin Crisis. He swooped me up and carried ...

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