COLUMN: Proud to be an American

Have you ever had one of those moments of such intense pride that feelings of happiness and excitement take over to the point that tears are almost in your eyes?

We all have. It happens to each of us at different times and different ways.

A few of these moments, for me personally, include taking the field for my last game of high school football or seeing my dad rush out the door at the sound of his pager, not hesitating for a second to go fight a fire that was consuming a complete stranger's house.

But I had another moment on Friday that far surpasses others.

As I stood on the sidelines covering the recognition of veterans during Friday's game, I was so proud to see the way the crowd responded to the ceremony.

At first, I just tried to take note of which veteran was which, in order to set up interviews after the ceremony. But I was quickly distracted by the crowd.

As the names of the veterans were being read off, along with their service achievements and awards, I turned around to see the entire crowd respond in the only way that seemed appropriate: A standing ovation.

That gesture of respect, accompanied by cheers louder than any I have ever heard at Kelly/Shorts Stadium, overwhelmed me with a sense of national pride.

Moments like those are precisely what I am talking about where goosebumps cover your arms and the smile on your face is so big that your cheeks hurt afterward.

Throughout the night, I had an opportunity to talk to several veterans who served in wars ranging from World War II to the war in Iraq.

I must admit, it was tough to keep my own composure as I talked with a Vietnam veteran who couldn't hold back his tears. He shared how this was something totally new for him, because, when he came home from the war, there was little welcome for him and his fellow soldiers.

Eventually, I couldn't stop thinking about the sacrifices these soldiers make, whether it is missing holidays with their family or literally sacrificing limbs for this country, there really are no words that could ever fully describe how thankful I am for the service men and women in this country.

However, talking with a handful of veterans on Friday night taught me that you don't need elaborate words to express your gratitude; a sincere handshake and a thank you is all these veterans would like.

Seeing the CMU fans respond the way they did was what led me to have one of those moments.

It's the things like that, seeing people leave their seats and yell louder than a game-winning touchdown pass in order to thank this nation's veterans that make me proud to be an American.


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