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An emotional I-Day

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

Independence Day is approaching. I am thinking of another I-Day that is happening this week. Due to COVID-19, the incoming plebe class of the United States Naval Academy will be inducted over a four-day period from June 29 through July 2, 2020. As I view the old pictures of my USNA classmates in recognition of Induction Day or I-Day, I am reminded of Lee Greenwood’s song, “God Bless the USA,” released in 1984.

The song was still very popular when I graduated high school. I was a member of our school show choir. We sang this song. I remember being so moved during one of our performances because I realized that I would soon be serving our country as a naval officer. The meaning of the song became personal to me.

Fast forward to my Induction Day on June 30, 1995. Every incoming plebe will tell you that you go through a whirlwind of emotions that day. You leave your civilian life behind when the Bancroft Hall doors close on I-Day. As a prior enlisted graduate of the United States Naval Academy Preparatory School (NAPS), I was already familiar with the pomp and circumstance of the enlistment process. Those who graduate from NAPS are required to report to the yard well ahead of our unassuming freshman classmates, who will enter days later. Our responsibility is to help indoctrinate them into military life.

On I-Day, it is important that the NAPSters teach our classmates how to quickly establish military bearing. We represent a “do as I do” model. We cannot fail them.

I don’t remember everything that happened that day, but I do remember that the song “God Bless The USA” was played as a tribute to the Class of 1999. I remember standing there looking pretty sharp, trying to maintain my military bearing when tears began to roll down my cheeks. I thought it was the most wicked trick that USNA could have played on us. Tears are certainly not a display of military bearing.

Every time I hear that song, the lyrics that tug at my heartstrings the most are: “I proudly stand up next to you and defend her still today, because there ain’t no doubt I love this land. God Bless the USA.” Even today, I get choked up just thinking about its meaning. The meaning of freedom. The meaning of my service to this country. The meaning of standing shoulder to shoulder with my sisters and brothers.

There are many debates going on as to whether this year’s Independence Day should be any less important to brown and black bodies due to the racial injustice and widespread unrest in the United States. According to an article published on theBoot.com that shares the story behind the song, “God Bless the USA” has become a rallying cry in the United States during times of crisis. If I were Lee Greenwood, I would change these lyrics to say, “I won’t forget the people (vice men) who died, who gave that right to me.” People, many people have died for my rights and yours. Many of those people have been black lives. Yet it is that very truth that breaks my heart for the injustices we still must stand against today. It will be an emotional I-Day, Independence Day. I still have no doubts, I love this land. The United States is my home, and I will proudly stand up next to truth and defend freedom and justice today.

QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of nonprofit leadership and management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via QNikki_Notes or iamquawanna@thebiggerme.net.