Freedom is a fascinating and powerful construct. As people living in the United States, it’s a word we use like running water – often without worry of ever being without it. Today we collectively gather in spirit across this great country and celebrate Independence Day and remind ourselves of the freedoms that have been hard fought for.
In the past year, we have been so fortunate to have had the freedom to traverse through the waterways of the East Coast and the Bahamas. The pearls we found along the way were not from all the Lowcountry oysters we consumed, they were the people we met at every stop. Many were different from us in every way, from bow to stern and port to starboard. But we shared something with many of them that is a profoundly important aspect of our lives. Our love of boating and our love of country. At each port, we found friendly and smiling faces. At each port, we embraced the similarities and the differences of every person we met. Like the Intracoastal Waterway, if you pay attention, if you act instead of react and listen to local knowledge, you most likely won’t run aground. As the MarineMax burgee, sent to us from our dear friends Abbey and Collin says, we are “United by Water.” Yes, we are. This is something we have never felt more than when on our journey.
We found ourselves saying at every leg, “what a country!” When we arrived in Key West and settled into our slip at Stock Island Marina Village, we truly felt as if we were at the end of the earth. The beauty was, this “end of the earth” was in the United States of America! Just over yonder from where the marina was located is a Naval Air Station and we realized on our second day at port that the flight patterns of the fighter jets were sometimes above us. On those days, we’d sit and listen as they roared overhead, sometimes solo, sometimes duo or quad in perfect formation. It was an incredible, chest-swelling-with-pride sight and it could go on for several hours. It could be pretty loud but every time we started getting bothered by it we reminded ourselves of the very reason we were able to be sitting there on OUR boat, living OUR lives… Freedom. And the people in those jets were a part of a group of women and men who made it all possible.
Sometimes we are sheltered from the sacrifices made by others because of our freedom. We become selfish, we forget, we get annoyed about the trivial. In March, we were tragically reminded of how fortunate we are. About a mile from where we sat on our boat, two Naval aviators attached to Strike Fighter Attack Squadron (VFA) 213 “Black Lions” lost their lives while training at the Naval Air Station. Lieutenant Commander James Johnson and Lieutenant Caleb King. Their Commanding Officer, Commander Kevin Robb said this about them: “Two great Americans… phenomenal young men, exceptional naval aviators and living models of what honor, courage, and commitment really mean.” We were deeply moved by their loss.
When we left our beloved Stock Island Marina Village and headed to unknown territories (also known as the Bahamas) we wondered what our trip would be like – what kind of people would we meet. When we docked at Chub Cay Marina, sitting across from our slip was a large yacht called…wait for it… “What a Country!” It belongs to a guy from Texas who came from little and now owns the island. It gave us a big smile. What a country, indeed! We met folks from all over the United States as we island-hopped. In the five weeks we were there we felt embraced by the Bahamians we met and felt the security net of fellow Americans on the same journey and knowledge that the United States Coast Guard was a radio call away. When we arrived back in the States and cleared customs we felt a certain joy that is almost indescribable…however Kate Smith sang it perfectly… ”
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with the light from above
To the oceans white with foam
God bless America, my home sweet home
Let us not forget that we are the UNITED States of America, regardless of the flotsam and jetsam we are constantly and inevitably navigating around. Let us not forget that together we are stronger by land and from sea to shining sea! Let us not forget those who died and who serve to give us our freedoms.
Today, we remember and honor Lt. Cmdr. James Johnson and Lt. Caleb King and their families, and all who have fallen. We honor all who continue to serve to make sure we can “Let Freedom Ring!”
Happy 4th of July!
— The OLOH crew