As a point of reference, on July 2, 2020, Royal Watrous shared a link to a new version of "God Bless the USA" and it made me very emotional. I followed that up by listening to a recording of my daughter Grace's song
"A Free American" (performed by her w/Little Dominick on drums) and I just lost it...uncontrolable tears. All day on July 3rd I thought about sharing that moment in a post and when I did I was overwhelmed by the wonderful response. I decided I would share it here!
(This is not meant to be political, so please don’t take it there...thank you)
Here we are on the eve of Fourth of July 2020, and I feel a love for America as strong as ever. I found myself emotional yesterday hearing a new version of “God Bless the USA” featuring Lee Greenwood, Home Free, and The United States Air Force Band Singing Sergeants, and I still get chills every time I hear the Star Spangled Banner…good chills!
As a kid, Fourth of July meant marching parades with my family in the Young Colonials. For many years Therese & I had a standing gig with the late-great Nick Attanasio at the Historical John Jay Homestead. The last few years have found us in Southampton in the morning (miss you, John Doboe) and in the afternoon with our fellow Troopers marching that horribly wonderful parade in Cornwall-on-Hudson.
From a young age I knew I loved my country and I guess the earliest memory I have of knowing it was being an 8-year old during the Bicentennial. There was something special going on and there were all these special events. One of the events was this big parade that marched past Bowen Road in Lake Carmel, New York. There were all these flags, fire trucks and “marching bands” and I knew I wanted to do that…I wanted to march in those parades. For me, that marching band turned out to be The Young Colonials Fife & Drum Corps and it changed my life forever. I started out in the color guard carrying a flag, musket or the banner and it was awesome. I never carried the American flag. I mean I was 9 or so years old and it was the tallest and heaviest of them all. I found myself admiring and always looking up to whoever carried that flag…they were the big kids, and in my mind, they had a special job.
I spent a couple of years with the O.H. Booth Hose Fife & Drum Corps from Poughkeepsie. They were a bunch of “old timers” who were probably all younger than I am now. Many of them were veterans and they left a gigantic impact on me.
In 1990 I joined The Civil War Troopers and played in a snare line of Vinnie Czepiel, Harold Green and Jerry Whitaker…all alumni of the United States Military Academy Band’s legendary field music group, The Hellcats. I guess it made sense that I auditioned and enlisted when the next opening became available. From 1991-1994 I had the honor of serving in the United States Army. I know I was never the best soldier, but I promise you nobody was more proud to wear that uniform and perform with the men & women of the USMA Band than me! A few years later when my brother Gus joined the Troopers, I guess it was inevitable that before long he would be a Hellcat as well.
As the years have gone on, I have never lost that feeling of American pride. Hearing the Star-Spangled Banner at the end of every fife & drum rehearsal, going to a ball game and standing with everyone in the stadium when it’s played is one of the greatest feelings in the world. My daughter, Grace wrote a song, “A Free America” which won a Veteran’s Day contest in school and references my dad who served in the Army back in the 1960s. At home when I come around the corner and I hear the Star-Spangled Banner on TV and see my kids standing…it touches my heart!
For the past four years, one of my favorite events is “Drumming for Veteran’s” hosted by Chet Doboe and Jack Stein. It is in the cold, blustery month of January, but there is a warm feeling of comradery inside as we perform. We all know it is a GREAT cause and the money raised is going to people who need it. The feeling inside is pure love of America and her veterans.
So back to Fourth of July…for me it is as special as any holiday. I can listen to “God Bless the USA” & “Grand Ole Flag,” Charlie Daniels reciting “My Beautiful America” & Johnny Cash’s “Ragged Old Flag” any day of the year, but today, they just touch me a little bit deeper.
This Fourth of July 2020, we may not be marching any parades or barbecuing with friends & family, but I am still in love with my country. While she may not be perfect, neither am I…we’re a great combination and there is no place else I’d rather call home!
Happy Fourth of July…I love you, America!