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The Connector: Ed. 98

Jul 5th, 2024 | The Connector

I love the 4th of July.

No, it’s not because of the fireworks, the hot dogs, or even the parades. It’s about what this day stands for and why our flag and this country mean so much to me.

You see, my dad was a first-generation American. His parents grew up in Russia and had to leave due to the turmoil there. They arrived in the US around 1917 and started a family. My dad was the youngest of four, and he grew up in a family deeply grateful for the freedom and opportunities America provided to everyone.

When my father turned 18 in March 1945, he asked his dad to take him to Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, where he enlisted in the Navy to help his country. He went straight to boot camp, and his sister picked up his diploma that June when he graduated.

My dad was assigned to the ship Monrovia, and he loved being on the ocean. He became the store clerk, responsible for counting inventory and ensuring every penny was accounted for.

In 1945, the war had ended in Europe, but Japan was still a threat. My dad’s ship was called to sit outside Japan. He recounted how, one night, there were no other ships in sight, but by morning, the sea was filled with American vessels, ready for war. When he heard about the US bombing Japan, he knelt on the deck and prayed, thanking God for sparing him and his crew.

He was only 18.

I can’t imagine being that scared at 18, facing the possibility of never seeing your family again. To this day, that image stays with me. Whenever I face stress, I remind myself that if my dad endured that, I can endure this.

Many people don’t know that my parents adopted my sister and me. We were raised to respect the armed forces, the flag, and to always appreciate the freedom we have in America. On holidays, my dad would be the first to put the flag out front, teaching us it should never touch the floor, and to bring it in before dusk, folding it properly with respect. He told us about the people who lost their lives so we could be Americans and that we should never take our freedom for granted.

He never spoke much about his time in the Navy, but he was incredibly proud to serve this amazing country. My dad was a volunteer and a member of the American Legion and the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars). My first memory of meeting Santa was at a VFW during the holidays, where they handed out Crayola crayons with the sharpener in the back.

Despite not having much, my dad always found a dollar or two for charities benefiting veterans or representing the flag. We collected many red poppies after food shopping at Pathmark, a symbol of Veterans Day.

Like many on the East Coast, we celebrate the 4th of July down the shore with friends and family, but you can bet almost every house has an American flag waving proudly. We are proud to be Americans, and we are proud of our flag. My dad always reminded me that we are only one generation away from losing our freedom. We must teach the next generation that our flag must never be taken for granted. It starts with us!

-Marcia O'Connor


This information is provided for informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice. The O’Connor Group makes no representations as to the completeness, suitability, or validity of any information contained herein and will not be liable for any errors or omissions.

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