As we approach the seventh anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., I am reminded of the importance of patriotism. Not the knee-jerk kind born out of fear and anger; not the wear a flag lapel pin kind that is for too many an empty gesture. No, I refer to the quiet patriotism of the thousands of young men and women who answer the call to service - who place themselves in harm's way without hesitation or thought of reward. The patriotism of American families who continue to give their sons and daughters to fight this nation's wars. The patriotism of people who, like me, feel a swell of pride when they see Old Glory flying in the breeze and who tear up at the sound of the Star Spangled Banner.
True patriotism is not bravado and trumpeting about our strength. It is demonstrated by those who quietly spread the word of America's greatness through their acts, who are willing to sacrifice when it is called for, and who take the hard but righteous path, rather than the convenient way.
I don't wear my patriotism on my sleeve or lapel - I save those spots for rank or unit insignia - but in my heart and soul. In honor of those who have paid the ultimate price for the freedoms that we take for granted, I have written the poem below, "A Patriot's Creed." Readers will note from the choice of words and the tempo that I am also a country music fan.
A Patriot's Creed
I'm willing to die for the things I believe in,
And I don't ask much in return.
Just a little respect from the people I fight for.
That's the least that I think I have earned.
Just honor our flag and the things that it stands for
Stand up for the Red, White and Blue.
Be proud of Old Glory and the freedom she stands for.
That's not such a hard thing to do.
You might not agree with the stand that I've taken
Or like the way that I comb my hair.
I've fought for your right to believe what you want.
Some respect in return's only fair.
But, if after all you decide that you hate me
I guess there's not much I can do.
I'll keep on defending this country we live in,
Standing up for the Red, White and Blue.
It's okay if you hate me, but, I ask one small favor
Just one thing I want you to do.
When you see her flying, please honor Old Glory
And stand proud for the Red, White and Blue.
Causes Charles Ray Supports
The Nature Conservancy
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial