Patriots’ Day 2011: Caring for the American Legacy

Patriots’ Day 2011 is behind us now. This annual celebration is a Spring rite of passage in New England, especially for my family, who has been observing this holiday together, since the Bicentennial celebrations in 1975 and 1976.

That’s because my father (now retired) was the Park Ranger Historian at Minuteman National Historical Park, for many years.

A Legacy of Caring

I’m always proud to look up my father’s name, in the generous citations at the back of Paul Revere’s Ride, by David Hackett Fischer, who cites my father, as the living expert on the opening day of the American Revolution.

To be known as the living expert in your chosen expertise, doesn’t happen without passion, extraordinary commitment, and yes sacrifice–all of which I can vouch describe my father. (It’s still with a bit of pride that I recall hearing the surprise yesterday in the Park Ranger’s voice, when he learned who my long-retired father was, while talking to him, at the Old North Bridge, in Concord. And yes, that was a tear in my eye, when I saw that Park Ranger, so respectfully shake my father’s hand.)

It’s the legacy my father continues to provide my family, and many new Park Rangers in training at Minuteman NHS today, who still benefit from my father’s life’s work–a historiography on the Battle of April 19th.

The Next Chapter of Service

The National Park Service continues to be a strong part of my family’s personal history.

After volunteering for the National Park Service in my teens, I worked seasonally for Salem Maritime National Historical Site, all through college.

Soon after, I met my husband-to-be, who works today as a Law Enforcement Park Ranger, at Boston National Historical Park.

After Septemeber 11th, he started working as an Explosive Detection Specialist, with then partner Bila (now retired) and current partner Kelly–a black lab, who during her off-time is a member of the family, with our other two labs. My husband and Kelly work hard at keeping the USS Constitution and related Boston sites safe–all of which are such a rich part of our collective heritage.

The kids and I are as proud of my husband, as we are of my Dad. His service and quiet courage are a gift. In addition to the National Park Service, both these important men in my life share another common bond, through their veteran status, from the armed services.

 A Story Worth Sharing

I had lots of things in mind for this post, but ultimately, the mission of the National Park Service–caring for the American legacy–is why I remember Patriots’ Day each year, with my own young family.

It’s a story reportedly not so often told these days, which given my family’s personal connection to the celebration and other parts of New England history, makes me a bit sad, and quite frankly, worried.

I know it’s far from a perfect story, and our narrations should not sugarcoat any of that, or lessen our passion to improve, with an insistence to include all voices.

But for me and others, it’s still a story about progress, worth caring for and sharing. Still an American story–worth protecting–and as relevant to our choices today  (digital or otherwise), as ever.

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