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LONDON SCENE: Olympic experience spawns pride

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LONDON – As the clocked counted down the red, white and blue flew high, and the cheers of “USA! USA!” engulfed Wembley Stadium. In that moment, I was reminded why the Olympics are so magical.

I grew up a Navy brat, moving from continent to continent following my father’s service. For me, being a naval officer was just a regular job. While other parents wore suits and ties, my dad wore a uniform topped off with colorful rectangles on this chest.

But as I grew I began to stand taller knowing my dad dedicated his career to the service of our country. And today that dedication and pride has never made more sense.

Watching your country win a gold medal is like nothing I have ever seen. I grew up watching the greats win through the glass of my television, but this time there was no barrier, no distance as I sat in Wembley Stadium and witnessed the U.S. women’s soccer team’s 2-1 victory against Japan.

I felt silly as the tears dripped down my cheek, but when the American flag was raised everything came into perspective. I understood why so many people give their lives for this country, why so many people come to America to search for a better life.

The American dream does not mean a three-person family and a white picket fence in suburbia. The true American dream is to be part of something bigger than you are. To belong to a nation where freedom is a right, not a privilege. Today I hold my head a little higher knowing no one can take that pride away.

But what I have learned during my time in London is that the Olympics aren’t just about winning medals. While the shiny gold is beautiful to look at, it doesn’t match the connection felt at these games.

The women’s gold medal soccer game was a perfect example. Japan took home the silver, but the way the team’s fans beamed with pride you would have thought they won it all.

Win or lose, people from across the globe are excited to be part of the experience. That is what the Olympic Games are all about. Like the founder of the modern day Olympics Pierre de Coubertin said, “The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”