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When my Dad was about the age of my youngest, he was homeless, walking down the middle of a city street, the buildings on both sides burning so fiercely that the asphalt was melted, sticking to his shoes and those of his parents and younger brothers.  Bodies were piled on the sides of the road like stacks of firewood.  The day before had been Hitler’s birthday and the British and American bombers presented him with one of the most intense bombardments in history. 

I can’t imagine the horrors of those years when a few mad men plunged the world into war.  Even before the Allied planes took to wing and the tanks began to roll, Germany was gripped with terror and oppression.  Dad tells of how chilling it was to have the Gestapo on the dais at church each week, monitoring their worship and what was said.

Sunday our congregation sang the national anthem.  As we went through all the verses, I thought back on a report from a well know national newscaster who said that he found our national anthem “embarrassing”: the virtues and ideals extolled in “The Star Spangled Banner” are old-fashioned and unenlightened and have no place in the modern world.  American, he opined, is not that special.

When we sang “then conquer we must, when our cause it is just” I remember the countless times my dad has wept in gratitude for those who liberated him, his family, and his homeland from tyranny.  Not just the fighting men, but families back home who all suffered and sacrificed to make it possible. 

The newscaster was particularly piqued by “the home of the brave”.  Of course America doesn’t have a monopoly on bravery, but isn’t an element of bravery implicit in a free land?  How much courage and hope does it take to hang up a sign that says “Cars for Sale” or “Mechanic on Duty” – to be responsible for the livelihood of others?  We’re free to choose and have darn few guarantees.  Just because the need to be brave isn’t unique, doesn’t mean it isn’t special.

It’s hard to imagine a future free of war and conflict.  Our personal challenge is will we become hardened or be stirred to compassion?  During those WWII years, my Mom was a very young girl in a very small rural town.  She and her friends had a fire going outside one day, dancing around it and expressing their childish patriotism by burning “Germans” – sticks – in the fire.  Grandma stopped them and took them inside.  They knelt and prayed for the children in Germany who were in danger and were losing their parents.  They prayed for their safety and comfort.  Many years later one of those children for whom she prayed would become her husband and the father of her children.

I’m grateful.  I’m grateful to live in a blessed country that has been, and continues to be, a force for good.  I’m grateful to all who’ve gone before us to build a great nation.  I’m grateful to be in an industry where daily I see people taking advantage of the freedoms they enjoy to make a good life for themselves and their families.  And I sincerely hope that we will all work towards preserving these freedoms for those who follow.

Lance Boldt is Vice President and Co-Founder of AutoNetTV.  AutoNetTV’s digital signage products deliver entertaining and educational TV programming to the lobbies of automotive service and repair businesses as well as digital menu boards and automotive website video content.