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my country

photo: GraphicStock           graphic: Martha G. Brady

I was ready to write about a Thanksgiving hymn today when I realized it was Veteran’s Day. So I’m going patriotic. We can’t be more thankful for our veteran’s, can we? They risk their lives for us and those of us who don’t go to war often take it for granted.

I was part of the baby boomer generation…born in 1946 as part of the first wave of babies at the end of World War II. During college, the Viet Nam war was taking many of my friends to war or affecting their decisions regarding college. Would they enlist first or take a chance on the draft? In nurses’ training the boyfriends and fiance’s of many of my friends were in Viet Nam. Most made it home.

Now war is happening again. It affects the lives of our children and grandchildren. It seems to never end. It is an important time to thank our Veterans for the sacrifice of time they gave to our Nation…often at the cost of their health. Thank you seems too small a payment.

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The author of these words was Samuel Frances Smith. By the time he wrote the words to this song, he was a senior at Andover (Baptist) Seminary. As a poor student, he needed to earn money and helping write a songbook was one way to do it. As he translated some German words to English, he realized he wanted a rousing song for Americans to sing to honor their country.

In no time, he had penned the words to this song. They were first sung on July 4, 1832 by the children’s choir and Park Street Congregational Church in Boston. The song caught on and is still sung today. It isn’t as well known as it once was when it was sung in schools daily along with the pledge to the flag.

Samuel Smith lived from 1898-1895.

My country, ’tis of Thee,
Sweet Land of Liberty
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From every mountain side
Let Freedom ring.

My native country, thee,
Land of the noble free,
Thy name I love;
I love thy rocks and rills,
Thy woods and templed hills,
My heart with rapture thrills
Like that above.

Let music swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees
Sweet Freedom’s song;
Let mortal tongues awake;
Let all that breathe partake;
Let rocks their silence break,
The sound prolong.

Our fathers’ God to Thee,
Author of Liberty,
To thee we sing,
Long may our land be bright
With Freedom’s holy light,
Protect us by thy might
Great God, our King.

Our glorious Land to-day,
‘Neath Education’s sway,
Soars upward still.
Its hills of learning fair,
Whose bounties all may share,
behold them everywhere
On vale and hill!

Thy safeguard, Liberty,
The school shall ever be,
Our Nation’s pride!
No tyrant hand shall smite,
While with encircling might
All here are taught the Right
With Truth allied.

Beneath Heaven’s gracious will
The stars of progress still
Our course do sway;
In unity sublime
To broader heights we climb,
Triumphant over Time,
God speeds our way!

Grand birthright of our sires,
Our altars and our fires
Keep we still pure!
Our starry flag unfurled,
The hope of all the world,
In peace and light impearled,
God hold secure!