Independence Day is just around the corner with stars and stripes, fireworks, hot dogs, time with family and friends, and the Dunwoody Fourth of July Parade.
The parade offers a variety of ways for us all to show our patriotic spirit. We can wave the flags passed out by the Boy Scouts. We can thank our veterans and active service members for their service, and make cards at home to give to Pebble Tossers, a nonprofit youth service organization, whose members will be collecting ‘thank you’ cards along the parade route to give to soldiers and veterans.
At the closing ceremonies, we can respectfully place our hands over our hearts as the Dunwoody United Methodist Church Patriotic Quartet sings the national anthem, join in as members from each branch of the military lead the Pledge of Allegiance, and enjoy the 116th National Army Guard playing the armed services medley. And later in the day, we can remind ourselves why we celebrate July 4th by reading the Declaration of Independence in the “Pocket Constitution” pamphlets distributed by Dunwoody VFW members during the parade.
When I think of patriotism, I’m reminded of my grandfather’s visit to Atlanta in the late ‘60s. As far as we know, Grandpa, who lived in New York City, had never visited the South. Daddy acted as tour guide, taking Grandpa to places that you wouldn’t see in New York—Stone Mountain, the Dairy Queen and Johnny Reb’s.
My mom still remembers Grandpa commenting that the Dairy Queen hamburger was the best he’d ever had. My sister recalls being out with Daddy and Grandpa and Grandpa driving Daddy crazy by stopping and saying the Pledge of Allegiance whenever he saw an American flag. In a similar vein, when they arrived at Johnny Reb’s Dixie Land Restaurant, Grandpa refused to go inside because the Confederate flag was flying level with the American flag.
I didn’t know back then that there were rules about the flag, but Grandpa sure did. Daddy explained the problem to the manager, who kindly lowered the Confederate flag, and the issue was resolved. Daddy always smiled when he told the Johnny Reb story and described Grandpa as a true patriot, as I imagine many immigrants of his era were.
I knew he emigrated here from Greece in the early 1900s but only learned that he had enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1918 and fought in the Argonne Offensive, when I inherited his discharge papers. Knowing about his service in World War I helped me to understand Grandpa’s patriotism and his strong feelings about some other nationalities.
He was none too happy when my aunt married an Italian because Italy was on the wrong side in World War II. That was all he needed to know, though he did eventually come around to liking my Uncle Graz. It would have been interesting to hear about his early life in Greece, his decisions to immigrate and to join the U.S. Army, and his military service, but I never thought to ask when I was younger.
As I look forward to celebrating Independence Day, I know one thing for sure: I’ll be thanking my lucky stars that my Greek grandparents came to America where our founding fathers declared that we are all endowed “…with certain unalienable Rights…Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Kathy Manos Penn is a Sandy Springs resident who has worked in corporate America for almost 30 years, primarily in communications and leadership development; firstname.lastname@example.org