Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A True Patriot

Adapted from a 2012 Dunwoody Crier column
Independence Day comes complete with stars and stripes, fireworks, hot dogs, and here in Dunwoody, Georgia, our annual Fourth of July Parade.  My husband marches or rides in the parade with members of his VFW post, and I meet them at the end where we see friends, listen to patriotic music and eat the requisite July 4th hot dogs.  

When I think of Americans displaying their patriotic spirit, I can’t help but think of my grandfather’s visit to Atlanta in the late 60’s. As far as we know, Grandpa, who lived in New York City, had never visited the South. My father 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 sister recalls being out with Daddy and Grandpa and Grandpa wanting to stop and say 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 1900’s but only learned that he had enlisted in the US 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 US 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.”