I confess. I have been involved in a lifelong love affair that will never end. My love is so strong and so deep that regardless of where I go or where I have ever been, I have never found another that compares, even in the slightest.

Yes, I am in love with this place, this land we know as America, this place called home.

The dictionary defines “home” (noun) as a residence; a place where a person, family or household lives. It also states that “home” is defined as a birthplace; a place where somebody was born or raised or a place where he or she belongs. The old adage “home is where the heart is” rings so true to the later definition, particularly, when one is away from home or when one returns home from being away for some time.

I’ve just returned home from yet another stint overseas, this time working as a senior law enforcement adviser to the U.S. Army Security Forces Advise and Assist Team (SFAAT), located at the Train, Advise, Assist Command – South (TAAC-S), at Kandahar Air Field in southern Afghanistan. Once again, I had the honor and privilege to support and work alongside great warriors from the 36th Infantry Division, the “Rakkasans” – 187th Infantry Regiment – as well as my friends and colleagues who have been silently serving both in uniform and out for many years.

Being home for our nation’s 241st birthday is awe inspiring. I started the weekend off by waking up early Saturday and enjoying the cool morning air while sipping coffee on my backyard deck. It was a perfect morning with the sun just starting to poke through the trees. Light dew lay on the grass and birds were singing. After finishing off my cup-o-joe, I decided to take a ride around town to see what was happening. Driving north on Seventh Street, I observed a flurry of activity at the farmers market. Families with their kids visited the various vendor stands selling fresh vegetables, farmed-raised eggs, honey, jellies and varieties of cheese. Corn on the cob was a big seller as there was a line of customers who were apparently stacking up for the big grilling weekend ahead.

Across the street at Meriwether’s Café and Coffee House, folks were drawn in by the strong aroma of fresh coffee and donuts. The sidewalk tables were occupied with couples enjoying their coffee, each other and the atmosphere of downtown. I continued my drive and stopped briefly at The Depot Restaurant where the distinct aroma of the meat smoker filled the air. I suddenly got the urge for one of Mike Nachbar’s delicious barbecue sandwiches.

Continuing my trek up Seventh Street, I spied a young boy selling homemade lemonade at his uniquely decorated lemonade stand. His father sat nearby reading the paper. As I passed by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, I observed a group of folks decorating the steps leading into the sanctuary and they all appeared to be enjoying their morning together.

Heading onto Fort Leavenworth, I decided to hit a few golf balls at Trails West Golf Course. I love this golf course with its gentle rolling fairways, awesome greens, the beautiful surroundings and the welcoming nature of the club and its patrons.  As I made my exit from this historic U.S. Army fort, I read the sign that I have read many times before – “Best Hometown in the Army.” Oh so true, I thought, as the slogan rang true of not only this historic U.S. Army fort but of the whole community of Leavenworth.

Over the weekend, my family took in the many sights and vendors in the area, visited with friends, cooked on the grill, went boating and celebrated the birthday of this great land – my land and your land.

I hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend, celebrating the uniqueness and exceptionalism of our little community and this great land we call home.

Happy Birthday America.

Viper One Six – Out.

David Shearman has spent a career in law enforcement and the military. Viper One Six was his call sign in Afghanistan. Contact him at viperonesix@gmail.com or visit his website at www.viperonesix.com