Loyal and true to the red, white and blue

Local families show patriotic pride

Written by Sara Garrison

On Independence Day each year, United States residents of all ages gather to show their patriotic pride. Four local families share why patriotism is so important to them, not just on the Fourth of July, but throughout the year as well.

The Rhein family

Dean Rhein served in the U.S. Army for 10 years from 1996 to 2006. As a disabled combat veteran, Rhein and his family show their patriotism every day.

Dean works at the VA hospital serving local veterans. Last year, he organized a 9/11 Memorial Run to benefit Veteran Suicide Awareness. In addition to patriotic decorations displayed at the Rhein family home, Dean has an American flag and Prisoner of War flag tattoo on his right arm.

"The American flag represents the values and ideals that I fought so hard for when I was in the military. It is important for our citizens to realize that they are lucky to be able to live in our great nation," says Dean Rhein. "I have seen what it is like to be in a country where basic rights such as freedom of speech are not allowed. I've lost friends, both due to combat and back on the home front in the aftermath of war. It would be hard to think that those fallen soldiers died in vain."

In addition to Independence Day, the Rhein family celebrates every patriotic holiday with pride. As a parent, Dean wants to teach his kids to respect the flag and to educate others about what it means to be patriotic.

Rhein explains, "Of course I'm proud of our country. Our country was founded by a bunch of rebels that stood up and said, 'We won't lay down and take it anymore.' We have strong roots, but we also have diverse cultures that make us what we are today. There's not another country like it, and it is our home, so it is important to be proud of it."

The Rapp family

David Rapp served in the Army from August 1970 through July 1973. During his military service, Dave fought in Vietnam and served in the Army Reserve and National Guard from 1975 to 1995. Each year, Dave and his wife, Judy, gather with family to celebrate the Fourth of July with dinner, fireworks and occasionally, a history lesson.

"We talk to our children, grandchildren and others about service to the country military and otherwise," says Rapp. "We strongly believe that patriotism is a year round commitment, not something just brought out with the flag, firecrackers and Fourth of July banners."

Dave was born in Germany a few years after the end of World War II. His dad served in the U.S. Army Air Corps (Air Force) for 26 years.

"My mom and dad brought me to America when I was 10 weeks old. I was taught, from an early age, how fortunate we are to live in this great country and how we are obligated to serve her in the military or otherwise," says Rapp. "I very much took to heart President Kennedy's admonition, Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."

Dave and Judy have taught their children and their grandchildren about the importance giving back, working to improve the country.

"As President Reagan once said, True patriots love their country and their countrymen. Even though we don't always agree on things and even though we may not like each other on a personal level, we are all part of the fabric of this country's future. We must recognize our country's shortcomings as well as its accomplishments and work to correct the shortcomings and add to the accomplishments," says Rapp. "No matter what our personal or political differences, we must remember what a remarkable country we live in and show our commitment to its preservation. 'United we stand. Divided we fall' should not simply be given lip service. It must be taken to heart."

The Buell family

As parents to their children Cooper, Gracie and Daxx, Dusty and Rebecca Buell want their children to understand, "Patriotism isn't free."

"There are always brave men and women sacrificing so we can live the life we live," says Dusty Buell. "Showing pride in our country is important because it is showing respect to those that have served and those who are still serving our country. It is these men and women in uniform that risk everything so that we can live free. The true heroes are the ones that stand up for others and protect the rights of the people that live in the greatest country in the world the United States."

Buell's life was impacted by patriotism through his former work at Youthville now EmberHope. "As a lobbyist for children in foster care, I witnessed so many positive experiences working with legislators that truly care about the most vulnerable people in our state," says Buell. "Seeing the lengths some of them go to in order to advocate for the children that don't have a voice, left an indelible mark on me. The interactions with the legislators of our state that chose people first over politics helped shape my optimism for our future."

Buell believes there are many ways to show patriotism, not just on the Fourth of July, but throughout the year as well.

"There are several ways I show patriotism throughout the year. Of course, I am a strong advocate to get out and vote. It is one of the strongest ways to promote change in this country," says Buell. "Another great way I choose to show patriotism is to volunteer. It helps make a difference and that is what our country was built on, ordinary people coming together to do extraordinary things."

The Williamson family

The Williamson family truly bleeds red, white and blue. This love for serving others and their country is something that Jeremiah and Stacie Williamson teach their children Reed, Liam and Annie each and every day.

"Patriotism is about believing in something greater than ourselves, standing behind our country, even in times of difference," says Stacie Williamson. "It's understanding the gift of freedom and living it. Patriotism is knowing true sacrifice and offering empathy to those in need. Patriotism is honoring and respecting our country's founders. It is reverence for the flag of the United States of America and the many stories it bears."

Jeremiah served in the U.S. Marine Corps for eight years. He has been a firefighter with the Wichita Fire Department for 10 years while also serving in the Army National Guard for the past six years.

"I feel the greatest sense of pride when I see the American flag. When I place my hand over my heart and pledge allegiance to the flag, I tear up, every time. I think of those who fought or who are fighting for every stripe and star on our flag. Then I think about my husband and I am instantly overcome with the deepest sense of emotion of how proud I am of him doing the same," says Williamson.

Stacie and Jeremiah believe patriotism is about respect and devotion to one's country and its citizens.

"One of my favorite quotes is printed on a wooden block in our home. It says, 'A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. He fights because he loves what he left behind,'" says Stacie. "Every ounce of every right we have as Americans has been fought for by the men and women who served. They deserve our utmost respect and display of pride as they defend the rest of us so we can live the best life possible. Showing pride in the U.S.A. is just a small way to pay it forward to all who make it possible to live this great life."

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