Flags, fireworks, and our national anthem nearly all bring tears to my eyes. As a Navy veteran and a veteran of the Iraqi War, I am extraordinarily proud of my country’s ideals. My Navy experience as a Chaplain has profoundly shaped my understanding of the world as well as my theology. The Navy recruits from a vast and diverse nation, they are the best of us, coming from cities and small farms, high school graduates, and those with graduate degrees. Sailors are Black and white, Hispanic and Asian. They are men and women of varying beliefs: Hindus, Christians, Jews, Atheists, and the occasional Norse Pagan. Sailors are also lesbian, gay, transgender, or straight. We are liberal, conservative, and I-don’t-care. It is this diversity that is the bedrock of our strength and ability, and despite our differences — differences that would drive most people apart — we made it work. There is something about the greater mission that can overcome differences and focus the heart to see only brothers or sisters in arms. To me, that is what America stands for, that is why these patriotic celebrations always bring a tear to my eye, because when the rest of the world is riven by tribal divisions and hatred, our nation was forged to give a home to those who were rejected. When I see the flag wave, I remember the words of our national motto, “E pluribus unum,” out of many, one. We should celebrate that.

Rev. Blake Lasater, 03—-LT Chaplain US Navy, serving as Senior Pastor at Eureka Springs First United Methodist Church