Faith, patriotic spirit rooted in SL

BY JANE ANDREWS ERICKSON

2019 Star Spangled Spectacular Patriotic Ceremony speaker

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. That simple and heart-felt phrase began each and every day of my childhood education here in Storm Lake. My faith and my patriotic spirit were begun and honed to a fine art from my early days growing as one of the five Andrews girls, daughters of Wayne and Bernie Andrews. That education and nurturing continues to guide who I am today.

As an adult I love being from Storm Lake and appreciate coming home any time I wish. And I didn’t really appreciate what “I pledge allegiance to the flag” really meant until I was an adult, until I joined a service organization called Kiwanis International and served 14 years on the international level. As I began to work with people in 80 countries and nations all over the world who were like-minded in serving and assisting children I began to hear their comments.

Oh, you’re from the states. Someday I will visit the strong country.

You are lucky to live in the great country.

You are so blessed to live where you can travel and return so freely.

You are so lucky to live where you are safe from war.

You are an American, from the land of the free.

Each time my husband and I landed in Omaha where we live we felt blessed to come home. And when we traveled to Storm Lake and saw the lake we knew we were home. How blessed we are in coming home.

During our travels it was customary to play the national anthems of the country we were visiting as well as our national anthem as an honor and courtesy to us as their guests. One particular regional convention which included all our Kiwanis districts in the Asia-Pacific rim was hosted in Jakarta, Indonesia. There they played several anthems and then we were greeted to our country’s national anthem sung by 100 early elementary children from the Jakarta area. Dressed in their little white shirts and blouses and their dark pants and skirts they stood tall and proud. As they put their tiny hands over their hearts my interpreter whispered in my ear, “They do not speak English, but have been told of your great country and the honor you show. They know you are a proud people and want to show respect so they will sing the anthem in your language.” With hand over my heart and my retired military husband standing in salute those beautiful children sang one of the most powerfully beautiful renditions of our anthem I have ever heard. They stood tall and proud, their eyes bright and their voices sweet and clear. With tears rolling down our faces we erupted into applause as they ended. One tiny child walked over, bowed, shook our hands and thanked us for being there and wished a safe trip home. Then he grinned brightly and away he went. It was only then that I noticed the massive TV cameras filming our every move and heard my interpreter say, “We are most impressed by you and your husband’s actions. You are truly proud to be from the United States of America. We are very happy for you.” It was then that my daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance again came fully into focus for me. But that isn’t the end of the story.

The next day we traveled from Jakarta to Bali. During lunch I noticed two twenty-something-year-old women staring at me and chatting to each other. I wanted to wear a sign that said “Yes, I’m not from here.” I was actually startled when one approached me and in perfect English asked if I was Jane Erickson. I hesitated being halfway around the world in an unfamiliar place and she laughed a bit uncomfortably and said “I’m sorry to scare you. I am a film editor for our largest television station in Jakarta and I edited two film clips last night for our station. One was from you addressing the thousand people attending your convention and the other while the children were singing. You and your husband were filmed enjoying the children’s singing and especially showed the tears down your faces. It’s obvious you are proud of your country. Your film was shown on all our stations…twice! We entitled your clip “Land of the free, home of the brave.”

I left that encounter thinking of how incredibly fortunate we are to live in these United States of America, to be able to live in this land of the free, home of the brave. Ladies and gentlemen, we live in this land of the free because of the brave. Because of the brave men and women such as...

Our dad, Wayne Andrews, who served in the United States Navy as a Seabee in World War II.

Because of my husband, Gus Erickson, a retired officer of the United States Air Force, who served our great country for over 20 years, serving in Germany, Vietnam and across our country.

Because of proud men and women like our nephew, Andrew Polich, son of Mary Beth and Mick Polich. Andrew is a proud member of the United States Army and is currently stationed in Colorado.

The United States of America, home of the free because of the brave. Today we honor all military, past, present and future and thank them for the unselfish service to each of us. These brave men and women protect our very life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

Ladies and gentlemen, because we are from the United States of America, home of the free, we thank the brave. We thank the brave men and women who work hard to give each of us the opportunity of coming home.

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