Happy Memorial Day: Remembering Those Who Fought For Our Freedom To Be Different

My sister-in-law, Dana Davis, was deaf but she never let her lack of hearing slow her down. When she was a teenager, the local swimming pool said she couldn’t be a lifeguard. My wife, Patti, who was two years older than her sister, and Dana demanded an audience with the pool’s board of directors and convinced its members to give Dana a shot.

She got the job and did great at it.

Dana and her husband, Donnie, had one child, Matthew. He was born with Absent Radius Syndrome and  foreshortened arms. When the radius bone is missing the thumb does not form and the wrist is not supported, therefore Matt’s hands are curved.  My son, Tony, who was little when Matt was born, said that God must have known what He was doing when He picked a family for Matt because Dana would know what it was like to be different. She didn’t lower her expectations when it came to Matt.

Dana died in 2006 from lung cancer. Matt is an adult now. The video shows Matt as a child singing a song called I’m Proud to be an American, with lyrics written by Lee Geenwood.

It reminds me on this memorial day of those who fought for our freedom. It reminds me that our country is a nation where people who are different are guaranteed the same rights as everyone else. That’s what the Americans With Disabilities Act and a slew of other anti-discrimination laws are about. We are not perfect, as recent hate crimes show, but I’m proud that we as a nation set such lofty goals.

It shouldn’t matter if you are deaf, if you are born looking different from other people, if you practice a different religion, have a different skin color, a different sexual orientation or if you have a mental illness.

I like to think that those brave heroes who died to keep America free understood that.

Watching Matt singing reminds me of their valor.

It makes me proud to be an American

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.