I remember where I was the night the ‘yellow ribbon war’ broke out. I was nursing a hangover in New Orleans, and I woke up after a long nap to discover we were at war. I didn’t care. It was 1991, I was in grad school on a holiday with my college roommate and I just wanted to relax and have fun. I remember drinking Planter’s Punch that evening, singing at the top of my tone deaf voice “I’m proud to be an American.” While I was just paying lip service back then, time and reflection have propelled me to truly believe in those lyrics by Lee Greenwood.

“And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.
And I gladly stand up, next to you and defend her still today.
“Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land, God bless the USA.”

Now, twenty years after the Gulf War, my youthful naïveté and apathy have changed considerably. My country is flawed, it has its enormous share of problems and disparities, but it’s still a young country and I honestly believe its trying to work out its kinks and become better. It‘s suffered through a lot of growing pains, a lot of heartbreak and a lot of pain. And it keeps surviving. 9-11 changed all of us, individually and collectively. There were a lot of lives lost that day. Our collective innocence was shattered… but a lot of heroes emerged as well. And maybe, if each of us tries to live our life in a heroic manner, some good will have come out of the terrible.

I’m proud to be an American and I’m proud of my country, with all of its flaws, for continuing to be a work in progress.