Opinion: Why I Love America

The author explains why he loves this country — and can’t comprehend why some fellow Americans think the grass is greener elsewhere.

Opinion: Why I Love America

When I was a boy in the 1950s and 1960s, there was no internet, no cable TV — not even FM radio. We had three TV channels in black and white, Wolfman Jack on AM radio after dark, and two of the very best sports announcers of all time: Chick Hearn and Laker basketball, and Vin Scully and Dodger baseball. And we had our imaginations.

In my day, the neighborhood moms kept track of everyone’s kids’ comings and goings. In the summer, we were all basically tossed outside by our moms, who told us to be home when the streetlights came on. The Internet and “surfing” didn’t appear for three more decades. ARPANET adopted TCP/IP on Jan. 1, 1983, when researchers began to assemble the “network of networks” that became the modern Internet. The online world then took on a more recognizable form in 1990, when computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee — not Al Gore — invented the World Wide Web.

We had our bikes, a handful of dirty baseballs, some gloves with the leather laces wearing thin, and a couple of well-used wooden bats. We did other stuff — played army, shot a few hoops, tossed a football around, snuck off to the local bowling alley to spend our meager allowances on pinball machines, screwed wheels onto 4x4 blocks to make crude skateboards, stole avocados from the local orchards, that kind of thing — but mostly we played baseball.

In eighth grade, I went to my first Dodger game and saw my idol, Roberto Clemente, beat the Dodgers and Sandy Koufax with a late-inning three-run home run. I’ll never forget how green that ballfield grass looked to me that beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon. Later, when I started hunting all over the world, I’d often compare the meadows and fields I’d see to that Dodger Stadium grass. They always fell a little bit short.

That changed for me in June 2019. Cheryl and I had booked an eight-day tour of the WWII Normandy battlefields in France. We were at the ceremony celebrating the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion on Utah Beach. The next day, we visited Omaha Beach, the 172-acre Normandy American Cemetery and a Museum in Colville-su-Mer, just above the Omaha Beach battlefield, where more than 9,380 of our military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations, rest.

On the Walls of the Missing, in a semicircular garden on the east side of the memorial, are inscribed 1,557 more names. We saw the resting places of famous men like Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., one of three Medal of Honor recipients interred there, including Sgt. Frank Peregory and 1st Lt. Jimmie W. Monteith, Jr. Thirty-eight sets of brothers are buried next to each other, including 2nd Lt. Preston and Sgt. Robert Niland, whose story inspired the movie “Saving Private Ryan.” And many headstones read, simply, “Here Rests in Honored Glory A Comrade in Arms Known Only To God.”

It was perhaps the most humbling day I have ever spent anywhere. The cemetery grounds are immaculately maintained. Our tour guide was an elderly French woman who had been a small child during the invasion; she told us that there are groups of French who regularly come to the cemetery and manicure the grass around the gravestones on their hands and knees, with scissors, as a sign of respect. “We will never forget you,” she told us, tears in her eyes. At least I think she had tears; it was hard to see through my own.

Last fall, I found myself up a tree overlooking a beautiful Midwestern greenfield. The sun had just started to illuminate the eastern sky, a light ground fog rose softly, and a little sliver of moon peeked over the treetops. It was so quiet I could almost hear my own heart beating, and as it often does during moments like this, my mind began to wander. I thought back to the green grass of Dodger Stadium, and the many fields of green I had seen since. And then my mind returned to France and the cemetery at Colville-su-Mer. In addition to the famous and the unknown, thousands of average everyday American boys are buried there. Men like Pfc. Frank Zawicki of the 116th infantry company, 29th infantry division. Zawicki was from New Haven, Connecticut, and was killed landing in the first wave on Omaha Beach. Later reports said the 1st Battalion lost some 65% of its men in the first 10 minutes of battle. In total, the Americans suffered 2,400 casualties on Omaha Beach alone that horrible first day.

What kind of nation produces men like this?

And so, I sat and wondered, as old guys are wont to do, sometimes. And I wondered when it comes to America, why do so many today think the grass is greener on the other side? Our unparalleled freedoms include the right to keep and bear arms, and allow us to become the best that we can be, given our individual God-given talents, and our willingness to work to reach our full potential. And, unlike any other country on earth, it allows us the privilege to go recreate — including hunting and fishing — on millions of acres of public lands. All of this has been protected by generations of servicemen and women like those interred at Colville-su-Mer, and those who have served and continue to serve, our nation. To them, we owe everything we have.

That’s why, to me, this will always be the greenest grass.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, please drop me a note at editor@grandviewoutdoors.com

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