One member of the worship choir I lead, Rodney Whaley, is just about to finish a tour of duty with the United States Army in Kuwait. He keeps us informed of the activities of his deployment by sending regular emails. Today he posted concerning about a 'two day late 4th of July' celebration.
Today is July 6th, two days after the 4th of July celebration. This morning I got up at 0500 (5 a.m.) and proceeded to the gym to get some exercise. I got there at 0530 and decided I would exercise on the elliptical machine. The room has several elliptical and stationary bicycles. We are also provided with television to watch to help the time go by faster. This morning, the TV was on FOX News. At 0600, Mike Huckabee came on. I think it is called Huckabee and Friends. He stated, as the show came on, that the program would be a tribute to our country with some interviews and some musical entertainment. Now, keep in mind that what we are watching at 0600 (6 a.m.) is being broadcast on the east coast at 11:00 p.m., Sunday night, 5 July, and in Nashville at 10:00 p.m. Sunday night. It also appeared to be a re-run from the night before, so it initially ran on the night of the 4th of July in the states. I think.
So here we are, a bunch of soldiers,, mostly older soldiers, working out on these exercise machines, watching Mike Huckabee and his patriotic show. He first interviewed an author, then had Lee Greenwood and his band sing and play. Of course in Lee Greenwood tradition, the song was, God Bless the USA. As the song began, we just continued exercising. Beside me was this rather large, jolly man with a strong Spanish accent. He appeared to be Puerto Rican. When we got to the chorus, this man started singing to the top of his lungs, “I’m proud to be an American . . .” with this strong Spanish accent. Then he stopped his machine and stood beside it at attention and continued to sing. Suddenly, others stopped exercising and joined in. I did too. Then this big Hispanic soldier puts his arms around my shoulders in a “man’s hug.” I sang louder. So did everybody else. All of the machines had ceased by this time and we all joined together, arms on one another’s shoulders singing, “I’ll proudly stand up, next to you, and defend her still today.” These are soldiers who truly were “defending her today, this very day” on foreign soil in a combat zone. The big guy beside me had tears streaming down his face. So did others. So did I. Maybe not big elephant tears, but my eyes were beyond moist. This room had a big glass front to it. Across the hall, with a glass front was the weight lifting room. By the time we hit the last chorus, the folks over there had stopped their weight lifting and were watching this little band of old soldiers, arms around one another’s shoulders, with tears in their eyes singing, “God bless the USA!”
When the song was over, we looked at one another like, “What just happened here!” We got back on our machines, continued our exercise session, and FOX News went to a commercial. It is a moment I’ll never forget.