SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Election Day is truly a time of reflection, a time to think about the values we want our president and other leaders to possess, a time to think about our country and what it really means to us and why we believe we live in such an incredible country.
Election Day is also a day of celebration — a time to celebrate our right to vote for whomever we choose thanks to all those who fought for our freedoms and liberty. To me, America is a wonderful place that has been blessed immensely.
Often I contemplate why I feel so adamant about my freedom and my love for my country. I think of the experiences that I have had over the years. One particular experience has stood out among all the others that has caused me to reflect and reconsider why I believe the United States of America means so much to me.
The date was July 4, 1976 — the Bicentennial of the United States of America. I remember it well. I was serving a mission for my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in southern Chile. My companion and I had just finished a financial audit in a small branch — one train ride away from the mission office in Concepcion, Chile. We had spent a very cold night at one of the apartments of some other missionaries. We rose early so we could be back in Concepcion.
We arrived at the train station, purchased our ticket, and then began to wait. Here we were, in a very lonely train station early on a chilly Sunday morning many miles from home with nobody else around us. The place was empty. The silence was stunning, even though music was playing in the lobby.
The irony of the situation was incredible. Here we were in a far-away train station on a cold morning, just the two of us — no fireworks, no pancake breakfast, no flag-raising ceremony, no speeches, no red, white and blue. Because of the date, we had been discussing some things about home and what might be happening back in the U.S. when all of a sudden the National Anthem blared through crackling old speakers in the train station. These glorious words overcame us:
“Oh say, can you see, by the dawn's early light, What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming, Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight, O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming? And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof thru the night that our flag was still there. Oh say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
While the “Star-Spangled Banner” played, we raised from our seats, stood attention, hand over heart, our eyes filled with tears. While we were more than 7,000 miles from home, we felt a part of the Bicentennial. At that moment, I had never felt so much love for my country. It was a wonderful feeling.
I often think of this experience, now so many years ago. Over the years, when I have contemplated who I should vote for, I think of this incredible event and other events I have experienced outside of the United States. Each time I do, I am overwhelmed once again with this sense of citizenship, the privilege of living in such a blessed country.
Even now, while my wife and I are serving a mission and living in the Dominican Republic, there is not a day that goes by when we do not count our blessings, knowing we come from a blessed land. This year, we voted in our little apartment in Santo Domingo, sealed up the envelopes, pasted the stamp on the upper right-hand corner and sent them through the mail. When I finished voting, I thought to myself: “Here I am in another country, but I still have the privilege of voting my conscience.” It was a remarkable feeling.
So, on Election Day, may we all feel privileged to vote our conscience and vote for leaders who will lead and guide this proud nation and continue reminding us of what a blessed nation we live in.
And thank you to those who have made our country safe throughout the years. I love America.
An Idahoan, Darrel Hammon likes being outdoors, growing things, and seeing things the way they could be. You can read more of his musings at www.darrelhammon.blogspot.com. He and his wife are now serving in the Caribbean Area Welfare Office.