I don't know how or where I developed my deep love of America, but that desire propelled me to wear a uniform for the first 12 formative years of my adult life.
college graduation, c/o 1999
My college experience was offbeat for sure. Instead of going to Ohio State or Duke, I accepted an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. I majored in political science, joined the cheerleading squad, and was voted captain of the gymnastics team. If it weren't for all those uniforms and alarm bells sounding each hour of the day, it'd be just like real college. At least, that's what I tell myself!
hanging with the girls
gymnastics team national competition
yes, the girls are all midshipmen!
road trip to Army/Navy football game
From Annapolis, I went on to Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. This was my chance to decompress and have a more normal college experience. No class on Fridays, taking coursework that only focused on your major...and unlike Annapolis, there were thankfully no physics, calculus, chemistry, or engineering requirements for this humanities grad! We were on an accelerated program and after a one-year thesis curriculum I earned my M.A. in National Security Affairs in Middle Eastern Studies.
old school photo, before there was digital - LOL
The time I spent in the military was richly rewarding, with life experiences and opportunities unmatched in my civilian life. I've lived on both coasts and made 10 military household moves, road tripping back and forth across the country from Maryland... to California... to Florida... to California... to Viriginia... to Florida... to Washington state... to D.C.
In 2003 and again in 2004, I deployed to the Middle East.
naval intelligence officer, P3 squadron
Captain's airwing staff
Although I did not last a 20-year career, I'm proud of the time I served. All of the patriotic holidays remind me of the brave men and women who volunteer to go to the front lines and defend the freedom we enjoy as Americans.
Take a moment today and say thanks to those you know still serving in uniform. I asked my friends via Facebook why they thought America was great. I'll leave you with their thoughts, and feel free to add a comment and keep the list growing. Happy birthday, USA!
Courtney - bonfires and communities
Bella - possibly the best BBQ places in the world, large foodie population, awesome regional personalities and cultures
Mike - grassroots anything, hamburgers, national parks
Bev - freedom!
Yo - choices, diversity, and bleeding hearts
Mike (round 2!) - innovation, baseball, rock and roll
Bella (round 2!) - some of the coolest architecture/monuments in North America [ed. Hoover Dam and Mount Rushmore]
Amanda - Ben & Jerry's, Steve Jobs, interstate highway system, whole foods, sesame street, ansel adams, emily dickinson, the daily show, glee, groupon, disney world, calories on the starbucks menu, the bill of rights, and duct tape
Mike (round 3!) - Bob Dylan, Mark Twain, Woody Guthrie, CBGB's and OMFUG, Saturday Night Live, Max's Kansas City, Caddyshack, Hollywood