Monday, May 26, 2014

What Does It Mean To Me: Memorial Day

I'm an immigrant.  I came to this country for a better future.  I came to be able to do more with my life then I knew I could in my country, Poland.  I came for the freedom - freedom to chose the school I want to go to, to choose the job I want to do, and, truth be told, to have more things... a house, a big TV...

When I first came to the US, I had no idea what Memorial Day was really celebrated for.  For many years, it was a day I had off from school and work so I could do things I enjoy to do.  I went camping and hiking.  I did my crafts.  I spent time with my family.  Sure, I knew what Memorial Day was - to honor those who fought and died for the country.  But I really didn't think of it much.  It was not my holiday to celebrate since I was not born here.

It wasn't until years later when it hit me.  America is MY country now, not Poland.  This is where I live, where I have my family and where I will spend the rest of my life.  I do have to say, living through the moments like September 11 and Hurricane Katrina had a big impact on me and the way I think about America and the people that live here.

Memorial Day for me is to remember that freedom is not free.  This country is free because of the people who fought for it and died for it.  It is not just a fact.  It is not just another day off.  It is a feeling in my heart, the ache for those who are no longer with us and for those families that grieve for their loved ones.  I have all I have and I can do what I do because of these brave souls.  When I'm with my kids enjoying the sun in my back yard, and I watch them play and laugh, there are men and women somewhere out there that are dying so I can enjoy those moments.

"Freedom Is Not Free" metal artwork by Iowa Metal Art
Does it mean I don't care about Poland anymore?  Not at all.  I still love Poland and I still celebrate the great things Poland achieved and is doing.  I teach my kids about the country their mom was born in, and their roots.

But America is where I live now and where my heart is.  This is the place where I plan to spend the rest of my life, and where my kids will live.  This is my home and I care deeply about those who keep it safe.

God bless to all who are no longer with us and who died fighting for freedom.  God bless to all who continue to do so.  Today and always - I remember and I thank you.

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