The opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author and not of The Davis Clipper.
At the end of the Breitling Jet performance during the Warriors Over the Wasatch Air Show at Hill Air Force Base last month, Jacques Bothelin, the commander of the French team, spoke from the cockpit to the thousands watching from the ground.
“I have flown over Normandy and the American cemeteries in France, where so many young Americans who lost their lives are buried,” he said.
“I hold them responsible for my freedom,” he said. “Thank you, America.”
Then, coming toward the crowd, their L-39 Albatrosses in a tight formation, the Breitling team split in to a fan-like shape, fireworks shooting out from the jets along with the trail of smoke that had marked their paths throughout the performance.
Those in the audience couldn’t help but be honored.
It was nothing that we had done. It was something our country chose to do, and once our leaders made the decision to fight in World War II, it was something a generation of young men, and some women, stepped up to do.
I read a bit about those young men in an early edition of the Davis County Clipper.
The June 15, 1945 issue included the news that one young man had died in Okinawa, another was killed in Germany. One was injured and another was captured in the South Pacific.
The sacrifices extended into the homes and neighborhoods of Davis County.
These young men had only just graduated from Davis High. One had been in the war less than a year. They left behind heartbroken parents, and sisters and brothers who had to grow up before their time. One young man was only 19.
What makes a country great is not just tending to our own needs and ignoring those of others.
What makes a country great is the same thing that makes a person great: Sacrifice.
And the very opposite of great is what makes a person small: Selfishness.
I went to lots of festivities celebrating America over the Fourth of July weekend.
I saw parades, car shows, picnics, festivals and fireworks and there was more.
And I suspect every person in every combination of red, white and blue T-shirts and hair bobs and scarves and hats, had his or her own reason to celebrate.
For the little ones, it was, perhaps, the candy thrown at the parades.
For the little bigger ones, it was the chance to light fireworks and watch them explode.
For us older ones, maybe it was the realization that we have opportunities available to us that few in history have had: the chance to speak our minds, chose our paths, worship in our chosen ways.
Or maybe some of us celebrated the realization that we have opportunities available to us that few in the world have, even today: the chance to get an education even if we’re female, the ability to walk freely and safely in our communities, the gift to vote our conscience.
I am celebrating all that and something else.
I am celebrating those men I see saluting the flag despite missing a leg, or proudly wearing a World War II veteran hat all these years later. And I’m celebrating those men and women I see collecting money for a Vietnam Veteran’s memorial even though not Vietnam veterans themselves, or holding events to educate people prior to elections or memorialize people lost in war, even though it brings them nothing in terms of money or fame.
They have done or are doing something for someone beside themselves.
That’s how America has become great.
It is how it will stay great.
Someone tell Trump.