What I came to know about patriotism started when my parents told my sister and me about Sputnik and their worries about the Russians. Later the Cuban missile crisis spurred our talk of building backyard bomb shelters. The patriotism of boomers was forged by threats, tragedies and triumphs. We shared the Cold War threats and the tragic deaths of John, Martin and Bobby. We triumphed with moon walks, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the ascent of the first African American to the presidency. We mourned space shuttles Challenger and Columbia. We grieved over Oklahoma City and 9/11. We acknowledged tragedy in Tucson, Ariz., and later celebrated the recovery of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
American patriotism is lived through our work. When we work hard and provide our country and the world with highest-quality products and services, our nation is strengthened. When we help the needy or the victims of disasters, here or abroad, America is strengthened.
What I really know about patriotism is how we love our heroes. One of my favorites is Lenny Skutnik. Skutnik dived into the icy waters of the Potomac River to save a passenger on Air Florida Flight 90, which crashed in January 1982. And there's "Sully." Can we feel any more patriotic about American skill than when we recall people standing on the wings of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 afloat on the Hudson River? Sputnik, Skutnik and Sully helped fashion the rich fabric of the patriotism I know.
Your turn! Tell us what you really know about favorite vacations Email your essay of up to 400 words to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or mail it to "What I Really Know," AARP Bulletin, 601 E St. NW, Washington, DC 20049. Please include your name and a phone number or email address.
Nancy Lane is a reader from Beaverton, Ore.
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