#WhyWeCelebrate this Fourth of July

June 30, 2011

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I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to the 4th of July. Long weekend, BBQ and beer, sleeping in, fireworks, baseball. And of course, the short work week next week. That said, this weekend I'll also be thinking about a letter I recently received.

You see, last fall our client VFW Foundation launched a multimedia thank you note wall to honor troops during Veterans Day. We partnered with a passionate grassroots community started by my friends Mike and Heather Whaling called Why We Celebrate (#WhyWeCelebrate).  Mike and Heather started Why We Celebrate last year on the 4th of July to make sure that amidst the fireworks and BBQs, people didn't forget to take time to honor our military.

Anyway, as part of our Veterans Day effort, I did my own video post about how our troops have impacted my life. And I told the story of my how my dad wrote a letter to the late Tim Russert after reading Russert's book Russ and Me.

The letter was about dad's life. It included stories I'd heard 1,000 times, like when he was coaching my brothers' football team and the shortest player they had held the other team's best receiver without a catch all day. That is, until dad put a taller guy on him for the last play, who gave up the winning touchdown. But the letter also had new stories. Stories I'd heard parts of, but never the whole thing.

One of those stories was about my Great Uncle Sieb, who served in World War II. He was part of the 10th Mountain Division Force and received a bronze star and purple heart for his heroic service. That is the part of the story I hadn't heard. The part I did remember dad telling was how one day my great uncle was forced to fire on a German soldier running at him attempting to take his life. My uncle's shot and hit the man and only afterward did my uncle realize he was no more than 16. They both cried as the young soldier died in my great uncle's arms.

Dad sent my video to my great uncle, and he told dad how much he appreciated it. A few days later I got a letter from him. It was to say thank you, but also to reiterate what a tough time that was, what sacrifices each of the soldiers who serve make and how nice it was to be remembered.

And that's Why We Celebrate¦ or it's why I celebrate. And why I'll be rereading that letter this weekend even though I've read it before. I'm sure you have your own stories that come to mind during this time of year. Mike and Heather have started a movement to make sure we remember those stories and honor our troops who have given so much. So between the BBQ, fireworks and sleeping in¦ take a second to remember. And please join the Why We Celebrate movement by:

Happy 4th of July!