[photos via 1 | 2]

You gotta admit... it's funny :)

I typically hate talking politics because I hate things that are incredibly controversial, and trust me---things can get incredibly controversial when you're in the overwhelming minority amongst a group of liberally-minded friends.

But all politics aside, I sure am proud to be an American.

Ten years ago, I had never even heard the world "terrorism." I had never heard of countries like Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iraq. I had flown on a plane without spending hours going through security. I hadn't really experienced "war." I was a kid --- just eleven years old.

Of course, I still remember exactly where I was when 9/11 happened. We were about to take a test in Ms. Setzer's room at Center Grove Christian Academy (yes, Ms. Setzer was my teacher for five years. It was a small school). I guarantee you that we said the Pledge of Allegiance that morning, "one nation, under God" and all, placing our hands over our hearts and standing at attention to American flag, just like we began every morning. Right before we started the test, our principal came in and informed us of what was going on. I only remember her saying, "boys and girls, history is being made right now." And surprisingly enough, I remember her leading us down the hall into the computer lab where we were allowed to get online and discover what was happening for ourselves.

We were just a bunch of eleven year old kids, but looking back on it, I'm so glad she let us do that. We searched headlines and read articles and saw pictures. We got to experience 9/11, just like Americans all across the country. I heard the word "terrorist" for the first time in my life. I remember being a little confused, and a little afraid. I remember all the eleven year old boys saying that we were going to war, and I remember being upset at the thought of all my guy friends dropping out of school and going to fight (I was only eleven---I obviously didn't understand everything). After a while, we all returned to the classroom, but we didn't have to take that test. Our teacher kept the radio on in the back of the room for the rest of the day. And although I knew that what had happened was absolutely awful, I had no idea that it was going to greatly impact the rest of my life.

I sat glued to the television set when I got home, re-watching footage and listening to any breaking news headlines. And just like it was yesterday, I remember the first time they flashed a picture of Osama bin Laden on the screen.

I was done. My parents had the television on in their room, so I was watching by myself in the living room, but after I saw that picture, I was terrified to be alone. I turned the television off and my eleven year old self refused to watch the news for days, which was incredibly hard to do at the time. That picture, that face---it was the most evil thing I had ever seen. It was haunting, to say the least. I listened to most of the news reports last night via radio because I still, almost ten years later, get a little creeped out by seeing an image of him.

And when the news broke that Osama bin Laden was killed, I cried.

It surprised me greatly---the whole crying thing. I don't typically get emotional. But let me tell you, I SOBBED big fat happy tears. I felt such a sense of relief. Relief that I could tell my eleven year old self that the scary evil man in my nightmares as a child was GONE. Relief that all the people who say that "we're not doing anything over there" and "there's no point in us being there" will (at least temporarily) support our nation and our troops once again. Relief that I'm not alone in loving my country, as I watched thousands of people stand in front of the White House and Times Square waving American flags and singing the Star-Spangled Banner (and "nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, goodbye"---priceless).

I beamed with pride as President Obama read the following:
Americans understand the costs of war. Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda's terror: Justice has been done....
We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day...
Tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today's achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people. The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to...
Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

And then... I may have even teared up a little when news anchor Christiane Amanpour was discussing her most recent trip to Afghanistan, where she asked the troops if they remembered where they were when 9/11 happened. They responded with, "Yes ma'am. I was in the sixth grade."

I was in the sixth grade.

Zach was in the sixth grade.

Christiane Amanpour went on to say how these men and women overseas were just children when 9/11 happened. And yet here they are, nearly ten years later, barely adults, and sacrificing everything for our country. Selflessly giving up everything for something that happened when we were all in the sixth grade.

May 1, 2011. The date was significant enough to begin with, simply because as of May 1, I started saying that my best friend & love of my life deploys to Afghanistan THIS month. Not next month, not in a few months. This month. Zach deploys to Afghanistan this month. And as insane as that is to think about at the moment with everything going on, I couldn't be more proud of him.

So on those days when so many people I know who aren't proud or supportive of him & the military beat me over the head with a peace pole (such irony, huh?), I have the following quote bookmarked that re-instills why I'm so proud of him and proud to be an American:

I think the only thing that can be said after that is a big ol' "oorah!" :)