America The Beautiful
If you’ve ever gone to a Catholic mass in a beach town you know the traditional church dress code does not apply.
Sun-kissed worshippers arrive in everything from swimsuits to seersucker suits.
No one cares.
Yesterday morning, at Star of the Sea in Virginia Beach, I sat next to a good-looking, 30-something man wearing shorts. He was missing his left leg below the knee and had one of those high-tech metal prosthetics with shock absorbers.
Sitting directly in front of us was a boy, about 5. When he spied the man’s leg he swiveled around and stared.
His father and mother elbowed him until he reluctantly faced forward. For about a minute. His curiosity took over and he spun around again, taking in the bionic man.
The guy beside me smiled, leaned over and whispered something to the child.
I made out just one word: War.
The little boy relayed the information to his father who in turn whispered something back.
The kid twisted around again.
“Thank you,” he said shyly.
The man with the missing leg gave him a fist bump.
Later, as the first notes of the closing hymn, “America the Beautiful” rang out, the vet beside me dug into his pocket and brought out some sort of commemorative coin. He handed it to the boy.
The kid stared at it, wide-eyed. Turning it over and over in his little hand.
Then the man leaned over and said something else that I couldn’t hear over the singing.
By then we were on the third verse:
Oh beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife.
Who more than self their country love.
And mercy more than life.
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness.
And every gain divine.
I slipped on my sunglasses. So no one could see me tearing up.
America. It really is beautiful. Especially in a military town by the sea.