I grew up not really having to think much about my country or how I felt to be a part of it. I don't remember conversations around the dinner table about how blessed we were as a nation or how great our country is. Sure, I grew up in a time when we said the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem was played over the PA system every morning in school. We also said a prayer before lunch with my teachers each day in elementary school, for what it's worth.

When I was 22 years old, I married the man of my dreams. He happened to be in the Air Force and marrying him immediately gave me a new level of pride in my country. It started very conspicuously. At my first official Air Force function, the Air Force Song was played and I found myself tearing up. Caught off guard, I chalked it up to emotions. Then, we moved onto the military base where we were stationed and in our back yard was a loud speaker. Every morning we rose to the sound of Reveille, at five we heard the National Anthem and at bed time it was Taps. At first, I would get emotional at every single playing. Before I knew it, I had developed a deep since of pride to be an American and even seeing our flag sparked something in me that was surprising.

It's more than the music. Really, all it took was a reason to stop and think. To think about how our country came to be. How far we've come in such a relatively short time. To put aside politics and just be thankful. I have had the pleasure of knowing people who believe that our nation is a worthy cause for which to give their lives. Lest you think I'm usually this emotional, let me remind you that I didn't even cry at my own wedding.

I've been married into the military for well over 8 years now and those same feelings from our first duty assignment are stronger than ever. Now, I get to share them with my kids. Every single day at 5:00pm, we open the front door, place our hands over our hearts and watch as the Security Forces officers ceremoniously lower the flag across the street from our house. If I'm busy with dinner or anything else, my kids insist I stop and quietly pay my respects. It's one of the few times each day that our house is completely silent. I love this about them.

On a daily basis, we have amazing fighter jets flying over our house so low that our car alarm sometimes sounds off. We have to stop talking on the phone as they go by. You can't even talk to the person sitting next to you as they fly over. You'd think that this would be annoying to those of us dealing with it daily. Instead, as they go over, you see people stop their conversations and stare into the sky in awe. Cars pull over and drivers get out just to get a better look. I watch them every day and yet, there are times when just the sight of them brings tears to my eyes. They mean so much more to me than I ever knew possible. To me, I think about my husband. I think of the people who serve beside of him. I say a prayer for the pilots because I know that they have wives and children at home waiting for them. Even now, I'm getting emotional as I think about it.

I'm so glad I've changed. I'm so glad that we have conversations around my dinner table to teach my kids what their flag stands for and how to show respect for it. I'm thankful that I'm married to Big Daddy and that I've been able to develop this deep sense of pride standing next to him. Happy Independence Day, friends.