Patriotism Is What I Live

We celebrate American Independence on the Fourth of July every year. It represents our declaration of American independence and the birth or our nation, The United States of America, as an independent nation. It is on this date that I am compelled to share with you a hard look I took at patriotism recently as I prepared an answer to a college essay: Does patriotism come naturally or should it be taught?

Does Patriotism Come Naturally or Should It Be Taught?

This is not a fair question to ask a military child. Military families understand, more than most, freedom is not free and witness their families serve loyally beside a military member. We live patriotism, serving beside our father, our mother, our brothers and sisters. We understand, more than most, the devoted love, support and dedicated defense of our country. As a result of the lives we live, the lifestyle we consider ‘normal’, we understand patriotism is neither natural nor taught…it must be learned.

A baby only knows what they experience. The love from parents, the desire for food and the need for affection. They do not know what a nation is or why they should carry feelings toward that unknown entity. As American babies grow, they learn the future is limitless and they can be whatever they strive to become when older. In the Syrian and Iraqi refugee camp I had the good fortune to volunteer in, I witnessed that as Syrian and Iraqi children mature, they watch as gunfire ravages their home and their parents grab their hand and flee to Turkey with nothing but the threadbare clothes on their backs. 576,000 Chinese children in orphanages know no love from their family, no care from their country… Until those same children are adopted by an American military family. And those former orphans learn love, care and the devotion to a family, a military, a nation from which they were not born. They become the most patriotic children anyone has ever seen.


As I pondered this question, I was unsure of which direction to take the answer. Then I realized the answer was right in front of me. At 1900 hours (5PM for non-military families) on a Thursday, we arrived home and stepped out of the car. As Retreat sounded, the familiar bugle ringing through the hills, my 13 year-old sister looked up at me, placed her hand over her heart and turned to face the speaker. It was at that moment I realized, a long 5,447 miles from the orphanage in Hefei, China, where we adopted her, she exemplified the fact patriotism is not natural nor is it taught. It is learned from the way we live our lives, in the way we affectionately talk about our nation and through the freedoms too many people take for granted each and every day. I am a proud military child. Patriotism is what I live.



Bethany Stricklin

Bethany is the daughter of an Air Force officer who has lived in 11 houses and attended 11 schools in 12 years, traveled throughout North America, Turkey, Greece, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Honduras, Belize, Bahamas, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Antigua, Virgin Island (both British and US) and Mexico. She was born in Fort Walton Beach Florida, moved to Panama City Florida, North Las Vegas Nevada, Springfield Virginia, Prattville Alabama, Columbus Mississippi, Carlisle Pennsylvania, Montgomery Alabama, Ankara Turkey and Sacremento California.

  • Joel Thor Neeb

    Exceptional piece and very insightful, Bethany!

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