God Bless America: Welcome Home

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

God bless America, land that I love

Stand beside her, and guide her

Through the night with a light from above

From the mountains to the prairies

To the oceans white with foam

God bless America!

My home sweet home

I must have heard the song, God bless America, about hundreds of times throughout my childhood. I do not recall a time in my life that I did not know this song. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, the love emanating from this song was rekindled in the nation’s unity surrounding those attacks.

Kate Smith was the singer who performed this song, making it a staple for the country, but her history of singing songs of racism created a disdain for this adored song. Though it strikes hard feelings, the love that Irving Berlin felt for his new adopted country is still felt as Americans sing this song with pride.

In 1938, with the rise of Adolf Hitler, Irving Berlin, who was Jewish had arrived in the U.S. from Russia at the age of five, escaping the severe persecution of Jews. Berlin and his family escaped only 3 years prior to the Jewish Holocaust (between 1941 and 1945) when over 6 million Jews were executed in an attempted genocide. Berlin had written several versions of the song, but after several changes, he wrote God Bless America, expressing his thankfulness in a love song to a country that provided a home and an escape from the suffering and persecution that many Jews endured.

In March of 2004, upon returning home from my first deployment, probably still tracking sand from the desert from which we came, my company stood in formation during a Welcome Home ceremony. As everyone in the auditorium sang the National Anthem, followed by God Bless America, I could not stop the tears flowing from my eyes. The same for the ceremony after my second return from Iraq. In between those two deployments, I was on funeral detail in which we folded the flag of the fallen and honored them with a 21-gun salute. For every flag that was folded… for every soldier that did not make it home… and for every battle fought, we sing God Bless America, as US soldier Irvin Berlin felt tremendous love for this country, likewise, our hearts were also filled with love because it was good to be home. May we never forget those who sacrificed everything in their love for our country. Happy Memorial Day!

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