I carefully took down my American Flag. The Fourth of July had ended, the celebrations finished and another Independence Day was in the books. I carefully folded the flag making sure it didn’t touch the ground. Then cradling it in my arms I sat down on a bench in my yard.

I remember walking through a family cemetery a few years ago. There was a set of markers commemorating three cousins that had died for their country-one by land, one by sea and one by air in countries on the other side of the globe. They were relatives I never knew and the marker was a memorial because their bodies had never been retrieved and brought home.

In deep thought I reflected on this past Independence Day. Of course, there were fireworks and celebrations, parades and picnics. People went to the park, camped and reminisced on park benches.

However, it is more than that. Our world is changing. My kids and grandkids will not grow up and live in the same world I grew up in and live in. Things are different. Priorities are not the same.

As I cuddled the flag I thought about growing up with patriotism in my heart, pride on hearing and singing the Star Spangled Banner. Holding my hand over my heart and watching the men in my family remove cover (their hats) in reverent awe of all this country (my America) stands for. This flag in my lap, men and women continue to die for, to protect me and you and our families.

Just because the weekend has ended and the celebration marking a turning point in summer doesn’t mean it is over. Perhaps, it has only just begun. Perhaps with renewed energy and strength we should be honoring this flag, this country, the land of the free and the home of the brave.

There are kids in classrooms I’ve taught this past year who have no idea what Independence Day is for. They have no concept of the history and sacrifice involved. They don’t know and furthermore they don’t care. What is wrong with that picture?

Does it have to get personal for people to understand that freedom IS NOT free? Does it have to involve a flag draped coffin hauled in the hull of a plane bringing young men and women home to be laid to rest before anyone really understands what is happening in our country today. Again some just don’t get it!

I’m proud of this flag in my lap. It scares me to think about the days to come and the events unfolding around me. It worries me the world our kids are going to live in.

Tears inched down my cheeks. The Fourth of July celebrations are over. The parades are finished and floats dismantled. The barbecue and drinks had been put away and it is back to work as usual.

However, it must not end. The fight for freedom must never falter or we will be destroyed by an enemy we never saw coming. We must stand straight and tall and push others to understand the sacrifice involved. The fight cannot cease or it will be lost. I love this country and everything it stands for. God Bless America in the days to come.

Melinda Clements is an E-T community columnist. She can be reached at melinda_clements@centurylink.net.