Proud to Be an American

July 4, 1776, we recognize and celebrate the United States of America’s declaration of independence.  Many feel the American dream is for prosperity. I think it means more.  Next weekend is July 4th and I would like to share my sister-in-law’s story (with her permission).  It is time to reflect on our opportunities, appreciate each other, and live our best life for self, family, friends, and society.

A Life Journey – A Story of a Chinese Immigrant

Looking back my life o f 45 years, I am amazed how much my life have been changed and how much I have accomplished.  The life experience I have gone through, better or worse, made me the person today – a firm believer of individuality, capitalism, religion freedom and hard working and resilience.

I was born in China in the mid-sixties; 15 years after the communist party took power, the darkest era of Chinese modern history. At that time, the country population was exploding and the severer famine speeded around the country. The government did not focus on economic development and people’s wellbeing, but rather on securing the power. The notorious Culture Revolution and unconditional support of the Vietnam War and the North Korean War against American are some good examples how the communist party wanted to gain the super power. The schools became the propaganda institution of the communist party.  I had been taught since the first grade that there was no god, the capitalist was evil, and the communist was the future of the world. 

As the middle child of a family of six, I lived under extreme poverty, fear and uncertainty of our family’s fate. No running water, no pluming, no bathroom in the house. We used the public “bathroom” in the neighborhood, which had no roof, a few holes in the ground. We used coat stove to heat the house and cook food. We had to pump water from a well which was shared by the whole neighborhood. We shared one bed with our family. Our food is depending on the government rationing. Corn flour, half liter of cooking oil, and one pound of pork meat was all we got every month for a family of six. Only during the month of the Chinese New Year, the government gave each family a couple of pounds of rice and wheat flour. The Chinese New Year was my favorite time of the year. With the very limited food supply, we did not have enough to eat and we were hungry all the time. My mom used to take us to the field and dig some eatable wild plants and mix them in the corm flour and make pancakes in order to stretch the food we had to the end of the month. I still can feel the disgusting taste of the pancake today. Can you imagine today, a boiled egg was the best birthday gift for a child? I have to force my daughter to eat an egg every morning.

Things started change after the founder of Chinese communist party Chairman Mao died in 1976.  Many government reforms were underway. The two notable movements were open door policy to western world and the re-focus on education. It was an eye-opening experience for a lot of Chinese to see first time the modern western world and listen to the western music.  The Chinese people realized what the government had said about western world was not true at all.  At that time, I was in Middle school, I made pelage to myself  that I would do everything with my power to get rid of the poverty and pursue freedom and a better life for myself and my family. I made up my mind some day I want to live in America. I pushed myself very hard through the middle school and the high school, I became one of a few admitted to the highest ranking college in China. I had switched several jobs and fields to get a better pay check and treatment after I graduated, I joined millions of Chinese student to apply the scholarships provided by a few American universities and I made it. My life was forever changed after I decided to accept the offer of the scholarship and come to US. 

In October 1998, I left my toddler son and my beloved family behind and came to US with $2,000 in my pocket and with my broken English.  I worked through the college and graduated with high honor and 4.96 GPA from the business school. I came to Atlanta in 2001 to work for Siemens. I met my dear husband the same year. We got married in 2003 and we had a beautiful daughter one year after our marriage. We live in a beautiful house with everything I had never dreamed of. At same time, we fought with immigration offices to get my son from China and we united with him in 2005. My son and I both became US citizen in 2008. During the 12 year in US, I finally found my faith and became a Christian. 

Looking back, what an amazing transformation my life has been – from a Chinese girl lived under poverty and fear to an American woman with a beautiful family, great job and strong faith and political views. After today’s story, I hope everyone in the audience will be more appreciative of the opportunities we have in this great county and the constitutional foundations our foundering father had built for us. 

I am proud to be her sister-in-law.
I am proud to be an American.
Listen to Lee Greenwood (3 minutes 30 seconds) and
reflect on your opportunities and
your appreciation for others and society.

The Poppy Story

I have written blogs in the past year about how memories and keepsakes can symbolize and tell the story of your life.  Today is Memorial Day and it made me think about what are the symbols that tell the story of our country’s life. In my blog Memorial Day 2019 I stated, “Today is a day to remember the fallen, and the sacrifice made for our country.  This is a day to honor that sacrifice by living a meaningful life.”  The Library of Congress seemed like the place to find out about what has been written about our symbols.  I found a perfect source titled “Symbols of the United States”.  

Every nation has symbols—specific objects that represent beliefs, values, traditions, or other intangible ideas that make that country unique. While these symbols may change over time, they can help to bind a nation together by reminding its people of their nation’s history and most important principles. Six U.S. symbols are depicted in this primary source set: the Liberty Bell, the U.S. flag, the bald eagle, the national anthem, Uncle Sam, and the Statue of Liberty. 

These six symbols represent the broad view of American history. The symbol that identifies, describes, and commemorates Memorial Day is the poppy. In 1920 the American Legion began distributing poppies to memorialize soldiers who fought and died in World War I. I have often donated to the American Legion in exchange for a poppy.  I proudly hung the poppy from my rearview mirror in my car or attached it to my bulletin board at work.  I only know the basic story about the poppy and the symbolism. I wanted to find I more.

The Poppy Story That I Know

The poppy is a hardy plant and one of the few plants that would grow and flourish on the desolate battlefields after the war.  The red poppy would come to symbolize the wartime bloodshed.  The flower became an inspiration for McCrae’s 1915 poem, in Flanders Field.

The theme of the poem:

The living must continue to live for those killed to ensure the soldiers have not died in vain.

Read more: Inspiration for the poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae

There is more to the Poppy story…The Poppy Lady

The origin of the red poppy as a modern-day symbol of Memorial Day was the idea of an American woman, Moina Michael. 

Read more:
Moina Belle Michael and the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy

In New York in November 1918 an American woman called Moina Michael came across the poem by John McCrae. She was so moved that she made a personal pledge to “keep the faith”. She felt compelled to make a note of this pledge and hastily scribbled down a response entitled “We Shall Keep the Faith” on the back of a used envelope. From that day she vowed to wear a red poppy of Flanders Fields as a sign of remembrance. Source: Unknown

From Amy Pak – Home School in the Woods (facebook post)

The importance of knowing our history is that it provides us a window into the past.  Understanding the past allows us to appreciate the present.  Memorial Day is associated with the beginning of summer, picnics, etc.  I hope you take a few moments today to honor the past and appreciate the how the sacrifice has enhanced your present.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget
that the highest appreciation is not to utter the words,
but to live by them.
John F. Kennedy

Memorial Day: Remembering & Honoring the Sacrifice

Today is a day to remember the fallen, and the sacrifice made for our country.  This is a day to honor that sacrifice by living a meaningful life.  Huffington Post contributor John Roberts article (2017) Memorial Day: Reflection, Revelry, and Remembrance discusses the importance of tribute.

“As General George S. Patton so powerfully said just before the end of World War II, ‘It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God such men lived.’ On Memorial Day, we should take time to not only honor our country’s lost warriors but also stand alongside those who know too well the toll of war. Our best tribute to all of our brave service members – those who are here and those who have passed – is to ensure we recognize and embrace the freedoms their sacrifices have afforded us by living a happy life.”

The Nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is home of the brave. Elmer Davis

To remember and honor the sacrifice, we need to keep the past alive, live a full life in the present, and prepare for the future.

No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave. Calvin Coolidge

It is important to honor those who served and died by keeping the past alive.

In this section I wanted to share stories from family, young adults, and veterans.

Vanessa Desiato’s blog post What Memorial Day Means to Me (2013) shows the importance of remembering the legacy.  

“The military made my brother become the man he was meant to be. He wanted to help people and did that by joining the Marines, the only thing he felt he needed to do. My brother has shown me what dedication, honor, and respect are. He has shown me what it means to be a hero.”

In 2008, as part of an Eagle Scout service project Ian Murphy interviewed WWII veterans.  The video is a synopsis (25 minutes) of 10 hours of interviews.  Ian dedicated the video to “the memory of the men and women who served in WWII and are no longer here to tell their own stories.”

CBS Evening News (Feb. 23, 2018) segment Steve Hartman ‘On the Road’ shared the story of a 20 year old who started interviewing WWII veterans when he was in high school and his “mission to speak to as many veterans as he can” so the stories of those who gave their life would live on through the stories of their comrades.

It is important to find a way to pay respect to military service members who died while serving our country.  We can learn about the legacy of sacrifice by listening to the stories veterans share about their experiences. Groups and individuals across the country have gathered stories, videos, articles, and other artifacts to keep the past alive.

The Library of Congress Veterans History Project “collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear from veterans and better understand the realities of war.”

This project includes personal narratives, correspondence, visual materials, a searchable database, and special sections such as Experiencing War account by four D-Day veterans sharing their individual stories. An opportunity for students 10th grade and above to contribute to furthering the project development is also available.  For those who want a more personal face-to-face experiences the project shares ideas on how to engage your community.

In addition to the LoC Project the History Channel Century of Courage has videos and stories for review. 

It is important to honor those who served and died by living a meaningful life.

In this section I wanted to share an educational program with the mission of bringing together young adults with veterans to share experiences and learn about the history guiding the importance of Memorial Day.

College of the Ozarks Patriotic Education program is an example of how to honor military service.  The goal of this program is “To encourage an understanding of American heritage, civic responsibility, love of country, and willingness to defend it.”

In 2009, College of the Ozarks began the Patriotic Education Travel Program, designed to provide once-in-a-lifetime experiences for students and Veterans from World War II, the Cold War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The program pairs College of the Ozarks students with Veterans, taking them back to the battlefields where they fought. This Program honors Veterans and helps to educate the younger generation, instilling an appreciation for the sacrifices of American service men and women. (excerpt from website)

This program brings generations together for a shared living experience that honors the dedication of the US men and women who serve our country.

There are blog posts from all the trips sponsored by College of the Ozarks.

It is important to honor those who served and died by preparing for the future.

In this section I wanted to share some ideas on how to show your respect for the holiday that will encourage others to do the same.  A list of a few suggestions include:  

  • Share gratitude…buy and wear a poppy flower, plant poppies in your garden
  • Share understanding…find ways to encourage curiosity of the impact of history
  • Share appreciation… extend conversations beyond surface experiences and delve deeper
  • Offer assistance…care for others
  • Support worthy organizations…give back by sharing talents to aid others
  • Honor the meaning of the holiday…find ways to remember that we are here today because of the sacrifice of others
  • Celebrate your freedom…find your way to honor the day. 
    For example: Fly a flag.  Wear red, white, and blue.

As a lifelong learner consider how you would respond to the questions below.

Questions to ask yourselfMy response
How can I keep the past alive?To increase my knowledge & understanding of history…

I will read and view sections from the Library of Congress and the History Channel.

I will read the College of the Ozarks blog posts.
How can I live a full life in the present?I will apply information from my historical review to the Blooms to Blossoms purpose.
How can I prepare for the future?I will help tell the story of remembrance in my virtual community.