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Documentary spurs Memorial Day patriotism

May 27, 2011 at 12:27 a.m.

Jennifer Preyss

BY JENNIFER PREYSS

I watched an interesting documentary last night about the origins of America.

The long series covered the English Separatists' (Pilgrims) journey to North America in the 1600s, and continued through the American Revolution.

We all know the story of the Pilgrims traveling across the seas in 1620 on the Mayflower for 66 days, seeking a break from English rule, and a new land to practice their "purified" Christian religion without opposition from The Church of England. We all know the story of the Pilgrims establishing colonies for England, establishing relationships with the Native Americans, and spreading what would later come to be known as Protestantism.

But as I was watching this documentary, for the first time, all I could do was marvel at the Pilgrims' bravery. I wondered if I would ever have the guts to pack a few worldly possessions, board a ship destined for unknown land, and set sail across the seas hoping everything would somehow work out on the other side.

Of course, we all know it did work out.

As the documentary explained, more Englishmen, slaves and other immigrants continued making the journey to the North American shoreline. In a short amount of time, British colonies were established, towns and churches were built, and the American way began to form.

And as years passed and the colonies progressed, the colonists began forming new identities as Americans, detaching from their English roots.

Of course, the more this identity formed, the more England tightened its control, forcing colonists to resist and eventually fight for their independence.

Thus, the beginnings of the American Revolution began in the 1770s.

As I said, we all know the story.

But there was one part of the story I never knew until watching the documentary the other night. Early in the war, England sent a fleet of war ships to the coast of New York and burned the village to the ground. It would be the worst attack on New York soil until Sept. 11, 2001.

Yet, because the passion for American soil and American promise and American freedom (both political and religious) was so great, colonists built a militia of commoners and fought back against one of the largest and most well-trained armies in the world.

I'm skipping a lot of details here, but essentially, the Patriots won the war, and American independence was established.

The bravery the Patriot fighters demonstrated during the Revolution was truly moving, and not all that apart from the bravery of our modern day soldiers.

It was the perfect documentary to watch so close to Memorial Day, and the film evoked a bit of my own American pride.

Later that night, I wondered how differently the American story may have been without the bravery of the Pilgrims searching for new lands in 1620. I wondered how different our story would have been without the bravery of the American Patriots later fighting to retain them.

And then I thought about how far we've come as a country, realizing our soldiers are still fighting to retain those same freedoms the Patriot soldiers fought for more than 200 years ago. How many, I wonder, have died so that I can possess inalienable rights - including the right to write this column every week and exercise my religious views openly?

So, I offer my sincerest gratitude this Memorial Day weekend to all those who serve in our American military; past, present and future. You demonstrate the same bravery and passion every day, as the original Patriots did generations ago. Thank you for making unimaginable sacrifices for me. And thank you for persisting in your efforts for freedom, so that I, and others, may abide in the much beloved American way.

Jennifer Preyss is the faith reporter for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at 361-580-6535 or jpreyss@vicad.com.

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