I love the Fourth of July! This is the month of celebration that reminds us of our blessings as Americans and gives us a chance to express our deep gratitude for our freedom and what so many have done to ensure it. I recently read the words of a Dutch immigrant who came to America as a small boy and said he can still remember the excited throngs on the ship shouting America! America! as the Statue of Liberty came into view. This is especially significant to me as my own grandparents were teenaged Dutch immigrants who came to America for religious freedom. They saw this same statue beckoning them to a new life of opportunity and freedom. They met and married some years later in Ogden, Utah and eventually sent two of their sons to war knowing they might not return.
I was there at the train station as my grandmother, Pieterke Kapp, waved goodbye to her sons, calling out “My boys! My boys!” as they disappeared from view and then fainting to the ground from emotion. Grandpa Jacob Kapp was more stoic believing there was a price tag on liberty, and that price tag is to accept responsibility for defending it. One of their sons returned from war gravely wounded and spent one and a half years in the hospital in Brigham City.
My Father’s Patriotism
My father was a married man and therefore was not called to service during the war, but because of his father’s attitude and the service of his brothers, Dad was deeply patriotic throughout his life.
He was a farmer, a quiet man of strength, uneducated by the world’s standards, but a man of great wisdom. My brother Jack stood beside him at a parade one day and noticed that Dad stood and put his hand over his heart for every flag that passed by in the parade. Jack said, “Dad you only need to stand for the first flag.” Dad said, “I know, but I like to stand for every flag I see.”
One night a man seated two rows in front of Dad at a ballgame didn’t remove his hat during the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner”. Dad politely asked him to remove his hat, but he ignored him. He asked a second time, receiving no response. Then Dad walked down two rows and quietly removed his hat for him saying, “If my brother can be sent around the world and be shot up in defending this country, the least you can do is take your hat off for our flag.”
Every flag ceremony is a time for remembering the people, places, events, and lives lost in ensuring our freedom. We must guard against the temptation to take these things for granted just because we are generations removed from a historic event.
Put Your Hand Over Your Heart - Album – “Heal Our Land”
(Orrin G. Hatch, Janice Kapp Perry)
Remember all the braves ones
Who fought the battles, won the wars
Remember all the heroes
Who wore the colors, bore the scars
Remember all the patriots who loved our liberty
Remember ev’ry life laid down to keep our country free
And put your hand over your heart
When the flag goes by
Put your hand over your heart
When you see Old Glory fly
Face that star-spangled banner
And when the music starts
Put your hand, put your hand
Over your heart
Remember all the children
Whose father’s heard their country’s call
Remember tears and anguish
From those who saw their comrades fall
Remember all the families
And what their loved ones gave
Remember every flag-draped box
Beside an empty grave
Hear the cries of fallen soldiers
Crying from the dust
Praying we will not forget
Their final gift to us
Collaborating with a Patriot
During the decade of the ‘90’s I spent considerable time collaborating on patriotic songs with US Senator Orrin G. Hatch. Through my association with him and my own research I gained a much deeper respect for the principles that guided the signers of the Declaration of Independence. In January 1997 I was honored to sing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at the second inauguration of Utah Governor Michael O. Leavitt in the Capitol Building in Salt Lake City, and heard him say this about the Founding Fathers:
They believed that a nation based on divinely ordained values could endure.
That is the reason every time we pledge allegiance to the flag we say, ‘One
nation under God. . .’ and why every coin in our pocket [says] ‘In God We
Trust’. . . . Our society has developed a misplaced politeness which says we
shouldn’t talk about God because it might offend someone. Heaven help the
society that is too polite to speak about God! (1)
That same year Brittany Salmon, a junior high student and patriotic essay contest winner, said:
“[Our national motto] ‘In God We Trust’ feels right to me. It helps me feel safe and secure to know God is looking over us and we’re looking to Him. I’m grateful that our country believes in God and I hope it stays that way!” (2) I add my voice to hers: I hope it stays that way!
One Nation Under God – album – “Freedom’s Light”
(Orrin G. Hatch and Janice Kapp Perry)
America has welcomed all
From many distant lands
Brave pilgrims seeking liberty
Who crossed the water in God’s hands.
Ev’ry honest, freedom-seeking soul--
America has welcomed all
The heart and might of this great land
Is found in our beliefs
Our faith in God’s unfailing hand
Will help preserve our liberties
And we invite all men who gather here
To worship God and feel no fear
We’ll sing the song of liberty
With voices strong and clear
We’ll seek for God’s protecting care
When we are one nation under God
Our freedom will endure
One nation under God
Whose promises are sure
He will bless and keep our land
Safe by His almighty hand
This is the hope for which men fought:
One nation under God!
What can one person do to honor those who have paid such a high price for the freedoms we enjoy daily? It may not be required of us to give our lives but in one way or another we can do something. We have an obligation to preserve and pass on the great gifts we have received. If we want to change the world we start with ourselves, our families, our communities. We honor the laws of the land, we vote, we speak up against injustice, we pray for our leaders—the list is endless.
In 1997 I performed with the Tabernacle Choir at a special convocation at Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah. Former President George H. W. Bush was the keynote speaker.
His speech was dynamic and touching as he told the stories of several everyday heroes in our nation who had made a positive difference in their neighborhoods, and often far beyond, by giving their time, their means and their hearts to worthwhile projects.