How Do You Define True Patriotism?

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By Tracie Ciambotti

It has been an interesting week as the varied reactions to the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death emerge.   Crowds gathered in the streets to celebrate a national victory; the killing of a terrorist whose evil plots took many American lives.  There are several new debates brewing across the nation.  Is it moral to celebrate anyone’s death?  Will this have any impact on Al Qaeda?  If so, what kind?  Is it time to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home?  Why should we continue to give billions of dollars to Pakistan?  Are we financially supporting a country who is supplying the very weapons used to kill our soldiers fighting in Afghanistan? 

These are very good questions and need to be debated.  This is the spirit of America: to debate the issues and find solutions.

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Patriotism has soared as it did after 9/11, uniting a nation that has been divided in many ways for a very long time. Images were splattered on news channels of citizens draped in the American Flag, chanting “USA!”  I posted the Facebook badge Everlasting American Flag on the Military Families Ministry’s Facebook page.  I wonder, though, how long this surge of patriotism will last and why it takes events like 9/11 or the killing of Osama Bin Laden to bring together the people of the “United” States. 

Our founding fathers shared a vision of freedom, liberty, and equality, and they worked together to create and sign our Constitution.  Have we as a “united” nation lost sight of the very principles that this country was founded on?  Why does it take a major event to get our flags waving? 
Are we so obsessed with personal gain that we have forgotten the cost of the very freedom that allows us to realize our dreams?  

Facebook Everlasting Flag Icon.

As the mother of a soldier who is preparing for deployment to Afghanistan, I am well aware of the price tag that is attached to my freedom.  While I am relieved that no one else will die at the hands of Osama Bin Laden, his death does not change my life as the mother of a soldier heading to war.  It may actually make my son’s job harder—more dangerous—as others may be inspired to rise up and carry on the cause of Bin Laden. 

Although it feels good to see the elevation in patriotism and to celebrate the victory of a ten-year effort against terrorism, I am saddened that this overwhelming response is related to a dead terrorist when it should be evident every day for other reasons. 

Do service members dying for our freedom, wounded warriors confined to wheel chairs, and daily sacrifices made by military families—all for the defense of what our flag represents—not warrant the same media attention and outpouring from a grateful nation?  Is American patriotism not symbolized by loyalty to the American flag?  If so, why doesn’t every flag in this nation wave in honor and gratitude every time someone sacrifices to defend it?

Tracie Ciambotti is the Co-founder of Military Families Ministry (MFM) and mother of an Army sergeant. Her previous blog contributions:

When War Gets Personal

An Army Mom Connects Military Families and Churches

Multiple Deployments, Multiple Homecomings


Paisley Dorr, 2, investigates the large American Flag as she waits for her father's return.

What is a few hours delay when you’ve been away from home for more than a half-year? So it was for the Joint Communications Support Element company returning to MacDill Air Force Base Friday.

Parents, spouses, children and friends waited patiently munching on cookies and sipping bottled water. Children skipped around the cavernous bay. Behind a large American Flag hung from a support beam, older children played ping-pong. A group of veterans gathered near the entrance unfurling hand-held American Flags.

The din of multiple conversations faded quickly when the large garage door rolled opened. There was a moment’s hesitation … nothing was there. Then, the company marched into view led by a soldier carrying their “Patriots” banner.


Col. Burnham goes "off script" to thank his troops' families and ask them to remember and support the soldiers who replaced them.

There is a homecoming protocol. Col. William Burnham reports their return, there’s a prayer followed by a melodious rendition of the National Anthem sung by a fellow soldier. Before releasing the troops, Burnham went “off script” to thank his troops and their families.

He added a special thank you to the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club and president Jackie Dorr (an Off the Base contributor) for making sure that every one of his returning troops had someone there to greet them and celebrate their homecoming. Sometimes it was at midnight, sometimes only a handful of soldiers returned, yet members of the ESC were there.

Then, the first sergeant asked the soldier: “Are you ready to do this?” They answer in unison: “Hooah.” The order comes: “Fall out.”

SSG Brian Dorr holds his daugher, Paisley, and his wife, Jackie, holds daugther, Anastin.

The quiet hall erupts in cheers, screams, laughter and tears as families rush to their soldiers.

“This has been a long war for everybody and for most of these folks, this isn’t their first homecoming,” said Burnham “But, it never gets old. It is super sweet to come home to the loved ones after being gone so long.”

Burnham is quick to mention that it is important not to forget the folks who took their place because now those families are in the “same situation and still doing the deal down range that we’ve got to support.”

“This is why we go do what we do – to come home to safe families, safe neighborhoods  and safe cities,” Col. William Burnham who returned to his wife Jennifer. This was his second deployment of seven months or longer. He’s been deployed more times but for shorter periods of four months.

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