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Patriotism at Its Best

imagesThe 4th of July.   Our country’s birthday, when Americans are most patriotic. We hold parades and concerts and backyard picnics. We wear red, white, and blue. Eat watermelon. Decorate bicycles with crepe paper streamers. Watch fireworks.

I’ve been right in the middle of such celebrations, but the most patriotic event I’ve ever attended wasn’t to celebrate our country’s birthday. Ten years ago, Son and Daughter-in-Law met Husband and me in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for a long weekend visit. It was mid-July, time for the local rodeo. Since we didn’t have Friday night plans, a real western rodeo seemed like a fun evening.

As we got out of our rental car in the parking lot, we laughed that we weren’t dressed appropriately. White tennis shoes, wrinkled blue jeans, and tee shirts identified us as tourists. Other people wore spit-shined cowboy boots (many with silver spurs), long sleeve western shirts, and jeans with knife-sharp creases. Black, brown, and white cowboy hats with rolled side brims put Husband’s and Son’s caps to shame.

We bought our admission tickets, took a few steps into the arena, and I had one of those frozen-in-place moments. The arena was pristine. The rusty-brown colored ground in the center ring had been smoothed in a circle pattern. And America flags flew from white posts around the ring. It was the beauty of the flags that stopped me.

As we made our way to grandstand seats, cowboys stepped aside and tipped their hats. An usher led us to open bleacher seating and suggested we sit high so we could take in the show at its best. People already seated moved closer together to make room for us and nodded a welcome.

At dusk, floodlights dimmed and everyone stood. Riders on horseback and dressed in military uniforms presented the American and Colorado flags and two others I didn’t recognize. The horses raced around the arena and then stopped dead still in the center.   Old Glory rose above the other flags. All hats were held over hearts.

A traditional rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” was sung, and not just by the singer holding the microphone. It seemed that every person standing sang. The red and white stripes waved. I wiped tears of pride.

I knew we were at a real rodeo. What I didn’t know was that the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo, which began in 1937, supports the military. Rodeo proceeds support service members and their families in the Pikes Peak Region. Colorado Springs is home to the United States Air Force Academy, U.S. NORAD/NORTHCOM (home to the American and Canadian joint forces), Air Force Space Command, Shriever Air Force Base, Peterson Air Force Base, and Fort Carson. The community is proud of its partnership with the armed forces.

The Facebook page for the Pike’s Peak or Bust Rodeo recognizes the event’s volunteers.

“What makes the rodeo work is the over 300 community and military volunteers who give their time to ensure we provide our community with a great rodeo. More importantly, it assures we can continue our tradition and #1 purpose of giving back to our military and their families. That’s what it’s all about and why we do what we do.”

And no doubt, that’s why a rodeo that we just happened to take in was the most patriotic event I’ve ever attended. It recognized the courage and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.

And, oh yes, the barrel racing and bareback bronc riding were the two most exciting competitions.

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