I'll sing Hen wlad fy nhadau, the Welsh National Anthem, alongside anyone. Years ago, someone described me online as "someone who defends anything and everything Welsh" Come to our house and you'll get a small taste; My father-in-law (lives in Morriston) says I have more Welsh stuff in my house than anyone he knows. But tomorrow (Friday) is July 4th, Independence Day for all us U.S. citizens. A day to celebrate the freedoms we enjoy. (More like the Hogmanay celebrations - they go on for a week). I suppose it will be "today" your time when/if you read this message. When we first came to the US, I had a tough time getting my mouth around the words of hymns here; Not as easy as Cwm Rhondda (ak Guide me oh thou great Jehova, aka Bread of Heaven) for this valley boy. Getting Americans to sing along was almost as difficult, except when we got them at a Pizza palrour (with lots of beer) or around a campfire. Over time, I came to learn and appreciate American hymns, country & western songs, and especially American patriotic songs. The Star Bangled Banner is one of the toughest songs to sing (correctly), and most Americans don't get the tune right. We were at an RV resort in Las Vegas a couple of years ago and were entertained by the Lettermen. One of their songs was Proud to be an American by Lee Greenwood. Everyone (here in the US) knows that song, right? Well, that's when I realized I didn't know the words. The patriotic feeling in that room made me learn it soon after. The evening before attending a Memorial Day service last year, I suggested to a fellow immigrant, a Scot, that we sing Proud to be an American as a duet at the service. He readily agreed after we went over it a couple of times. I was nervous singing this wonderful song for the first time in public, and it was quite an emotional time. I had the pleasure of seeing Lee Greenwood perform it live at an RV rally in Orlando last year. He didn't ask me to sing with him though. Recently I was invited to attend a meeting of a local olde farts club. Everyone sang happy birthday to the folks' who's birthday was that month. I heard a guy across the table say "he could sing our song", and didn't think more of it. At the end of the meeting, I was about to get up and leave when I heard an announcement that "Tom will now lead us in our song". As I walked up to the podium, I asked "which song?", and was told God bless America. I stumbled through it, since I knew (almost) all the words, and it was another emotional experience. I came home, got out the song book, and made sure I got the melody and words down pat before the next meeting. When I researched that song, I found a copy of Irving Berlin's original score and hand written lyrics in the Library Of Congress. That's when I first learned of the spoken verse at the beginning of the song, which he refers to as a prayer, and I made a point of reading the words to the group next time I sang that song: While the storm clouds gather far across the sea, Let us swear allegiance to a land that's free, Let us all be grateful for a land so fair, As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer. That file also mentions that he "left his home in Siberia for America when he was only five years old". One of countless stories of how folks came to the U.S. to escape conditions in their homeland. Tomorrow will be one of the few days in the year when our Welsh flag will be flown beneath the stars and stripes on the flagpole. Our thoughts and prayers are with all the servicemen fighting wars to keep our two countries safe and free.