What is Patriotism?
by Congressman Patrick McHenry
Observer News Enterprise, September 11, 2009
Patriotism inspires us. It unites us. It fills our hearts with pride and optimism. And sometimes it brings us to tears. Simple but poignant acts of American patriotism occur every day. They rarely attract headlines but these are the actions that strengthen this great nation – and teach us the true meaning of patriotism.
What Is Patriotism?
According to Webster’s, patriotism is “love for and devotion to one’s country.” But that simple definition is woefully inadequate.
Patriotism inspires us. It unites us. It fills our hearts with pride and optimism. And sometimes it brings us to tears.
Simple but poignant acts of American patriotism occur every day. They rarely attract headlines but these are the actions that strengthen this great nation – and teach us the true meaning of patriotism.
Believing in the promise of America enough to give their lives for it, American soldiers patrol dangerous areas of Iraq and Afghanistan every day. While these brave men and women come from many different backgrounds, they all share a sense of duty that sustains them.
The families of American troops make great sacrifices for this nation. Believing in the cause for which their loved ones fight, military families bear great burdens and ask little in return. As we pray for our troops, we must not forget the hardships of their families and pray that God watches over them as well.
In small communities across the country, concerned citizens send care packages to men and women in uniform whom they have never met. To these patriots, the expense of a care package is a small price to pay to offer material support to those who defend their freedom.
Serving the needs of our veterans is a patriotic calling. VA medical centers throughout the land are full of doctors, nurses and staff who devote their lives to caring for our veterans. Upon returning home, veterans help one another find work and provide for their families.
Many more Americans risk it all to protect the safety of perfect strangers. As we’re witnessing right now in California, volunteer firefighters travel to other states to help combat raging wildfires. I’ve had the privilege of getting to know many of our local firefighters. I can attest to their passion for patriotic service.
Patriotism inspires our local police to patrol the streets every day, maintaining law and order in our communities. Teachers see hope for America in the children they work so hard to educate.
In times of crisis, patriotism unites us. We put our differences aside to help our countrymen in need. After Hurricane Katrina, millions of Americans made charitable donations and many went to the Gulf coast to help rebuild communities.
Perhaps the greatest example of patriotism was September 11, 2001. A day of tragedy and despair also serves as a vivid display of American patriotism.
Heroic acts were everywhere to be seen that day: firefighters running into burning buildings, the passengers on Flight 93 giving their lives to save the lives of others, volunteers who flooded ground zero to help in any way they could, and millions of Americans who donated blood and held candlelight vigils to honor the fallen. That day, and in the months that followed, we witnessed the true definition of American patriotism.
As free people, we often differ in our views about the direction of our country (which is also patriotic). But as an American citizen, I take pride in knowing that countless patriotic acts are occurring every day in this great nation.