Abigail P.

  • North Carolina

What does America mean to you?

By Abigail P.
Winston Salem, North Carolina

From Kings Mountain to Appomattox Court House. From Fort McHenry to the Beaches of Normandy. The American Spirit has endured trial upon trial in our nations 250 years. The freedom we have fought for, time and time again by combating threats abroad and at home, has come with a cost, as displayed by the red in our beloved flag. This constant struggle for liberty encapsulates what America means to me. In this land of the free, someone can be anything, as long as they work hard and are willing to make sacrifices. This nation symbolizes the fact that there is a way of life worth defending, and that there is hope for the future, because of the triumphs of the past.

If the past could talk, Id introduce you to my Revolutionary War ancestor, Conrad Crump. He knew the impact that his influence would have on the future of this country. A precedent of liberty needed to be set, and if that cost him his life, then so be it. Conrad Crump served time in a British POW Camp on Long Island, New York after being captured with his Patriot Militia at the Siege of Charleston (SC), an experience that was known to break a man. Crump was quite the exception, as he escaped the POW Camp after twelve months of internment and trekked back to the Carolina backcountry, where he joined the ranks of Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, with whom he fought the British for the rest of the Revolution. His determination along with so many others led to the triumph at Yorktown, where the American way of life was successfully defended against its first major opponent, and the blessings of liberty were secured to those then, and to us now, their future posterity.

While our domestic liberties were guaranteed by the Patriots of 1776, our Founding Fathers knew that forces abroad would constantly challenge American freedoms; history is littered with conflicts that have drawn the United States military worldwide. After all, tis a common observation here that our cause is the cause of all mankind; and that we are fighting for their liberty in defending our own (Benjamin Franklin); as the United States entered foreign conflicts in the past, we worked to ensure the personal liberties to those immediately around them (foreign civilians) while guaranteeing that the sacrifice displayed by the red in Old Glory was not in vain.

I opened by stating instances where American liberties were challenged, one being on the Beaches of Normandy. My Great-grandfather, Vernon Mahaffey, was part of one of the first waves on Utah Beach. He faced the great cliffs, and saw his brothers mowed down by those who ruthlessly held Europe oppressed, the same group who committed horrendous humanitarian atrocities and sunk passenger vessels outside Charleston, SC. Yet, my Great Grandfather pushed on, through a hailstorm of bullets, as did his comrades, as the bonds of oppression were forced to break. In conquering Normandy, the United States aided in the freeing of France, and eventually all of Europe, while simultaneously ensuring that the same oppression that held France for so long, never had the chance to invade the United States.

America. A word, one with so much meaning. That meaning is deeply personal, as my family is woven into the story of our Nation from the very beginning. I live out the way of life that Conrad Crump won, and that my Great-grandfather ensured. Our liberties are challenged every day, maybe not domestically, but abroad, as American troops are fired at, simply for the banner they serve under. In the words of the great theologian Johnny Cash, Shes been through the fire before and I believe she can take a whole lot more (Ragged Old Flag). The American way of life will live on, as the spirit of America endures trial and trial again and as brave American men and women continue the sacrifice ingrained into the red in our flag, so that there may be hope for the future.

So what does America mean to me? The same thing that it meant to Conrad Crump at the Siege of Charleston, and the same thing that it meant to Vernon Mahaffey on D-Day: removing any threat to liberty ensures the hope to Americans today and tomorrow that we can be anything as long as we work hard because the sacrifices of others have paved our way. To me, America is a golden land of opportunity; I can work hard and achieve success. On most school days we have morning announcements, which begin with the Pledge of Allegiance. Some of my schoolmates complain about having to stand; they think its stupid, but not me. When I stand for the flag, it is a reverent thank you. Its a thank you to every person who has sacrificed to pave the way for me: for those Patriots who rebelled against tyranny, those women who pushed through societal barriers so that I, a teenage girl, could attend public school and study to become a Doctor. It is a thank you to those young boys of 80 years ago, the Greatest Generation, and it is a thank you to my parents, whose hard work and sacrifice have provided for my brother and me.

Whenever I look at the flag, its as if the past could talk. When Conrad Crump looked at the flag, he looked forward to a land where his descendants could thrive. When Vernon Mahaffey looked at the flag, he thought of a land across the ocean, a home he left behind, so that he could defend the opportunities he was given. Me? What do I see? I see a forever-waving reminder of the meaning of America. Liberty is the way of life, and opportunity is part of every day.