I am proud to be a Proud American, and veteran

I guess I have always been a proud American, though as a tyke I didn’t always realize it. I learned my family’s ancestors even served during the American Revolution. An ancestor of mine even became POTUS. My grandfather was named after him: Martin VanBuren Conklin. An uncle served in the Korean War, my father served during the Normandy invasion. 

I recall we always flew the American flag. When capable, I was assigned daily to present and retire our national colors. I learned when you live under 50 white stars encompassed by 13 red and white stripes, you wake up each morning to make your own decisions and live accordingly. 

Flashbacks from my life include being given various simple tasks, strictly assigned and expected to be completed. I often got into trouble for my overzealous efforts in finishing them. Hoeing weeds I once targeted the large ones (they were actually vegetables).  That was not so good. While feeding and watering 10 chickens, an escapee fell victim to my youthful retribution. It was another troubling day for me, but it did put a bird in the pot for the family dinner. 

I lived with my grandparents outside of the village, from whom I learned all about hard work and self-sufficiency, and living off the land. Life was about farming and harvesting our own bounty and the plentiful game and fish. We canned meats and veggies for the winter, and stored fresh veggies in our root cellar. I trapped animals to supplement our income. 

While growing up, I acquired a close group of friends with similar interests and goals, and we developed a tight-knit camaraderie. We camped during spring, summer and winter vacations, occasionally in very adverse conditions. 

Mother Nature provided our provisions, supplemented by a few canned supplies. We didn’t realize we were developing then into Proud Americans, following in our ancestors’ footsteps. We were seeking our own individual identities, embracing our independence, learning survival skills, and how to work as a team. 

We also learned to savor our freedom. We toughened ourselves for what we would deal with in the future. My group of friends all reached our late teens during the beginning of the Vietnam War; some of us went off to serve our country in that war, including me.  

During our military service we learned a great deal about leadership, organization, cooperation and punctually. These were all requirements for survival. Lacking such conditioning could send someone home in a box to Dover Air Force Base or to the bottom of the sea. 

This was the time my awareness of just how proud I was to be an American blossomed. My friends and I, especially those of us who went to war together, depended upon the professional and precise actions of one another. Race, ethnicity, religion, culture — none of these mattered in the trenches. We were a cohesive force. 

Visiting other nations while in the Armed Forces, I learned our country was well worth fighting for, and if necessary, dying for. We learned the hard way our government and our nation’s populace could be cruel. They could turn their backs and support against us. 

Yet we endured, we remained Proud Americans. So many people today try to tear down American pride, patriotism and our symbol of freedom — our American Flag. The same flag that has led us into freedom’s battles for the past 250 years and enshrouded those who continue to make the supreme sacrifice. They are embraced by God on their journeys home. 

God bless you, patriotic readers, and your families. Proudly display your American and first responder flags and defend the original Constitutional principles this country was founded upon. We stand with fortitude from sea to shining sea.

Millerton resident Larry Conklin is a Vietnam War veteran, and a member of the Millerton American Legion Post 178 in Millerton, N.Y., and the Couch-Pipa Post 6851 VFW in North Canaan, Conn.

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