I did not grow up in a patriotic family.
It's not like we were raging deconstructionists or anything - it's just that America was... a background. Independence Day was for sparklers and barbecues and fireworks... we really didn't dwell on the why of it that much.
For me, personally, that started to change about.. oh, twelve years or so ago. I started seriously reading our history. I started meeting more military guys and hearing their stories. Slowly, I started to realize just how big of a chance we were taking in 1776... and just how big of a gift we were given.
... and how expensive it's been to keep.
My epiphany, as it were, was in 2001. Not 9/11, actually - but earlier that year. The flag I flew with my neighbors on *that* September day was one I'd requested earlier that year from my Senator - it had flown over our capitol July 4, 2001.
Ten years later, it flies outside my little cottage in Alaska, fastened with a couple linen ties to a pole pulled from the nearby forest. It's been an interesting ten years.
edit... just heard from my beloved brother in Afghanistan this morning. Thankfully, he's fine.
Walk in Grace, M. I love you.