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Many people get a sudden surge of patriotism once or twice a year, usually around national holidays. Patriotism, however, should last far more than a few hours and come from more meaningful feelings than excitement over impending fireworks. That said, there are many easy ways to show your patriotism. Here are six ways to be patriotic.

Fly the Flag

One of the simplest ways to show some patriotic spirit is to fly the flag. If you have a full sized flagpole or a place for a large flag, make sure to display Old Glory. For those that do not have a flagpole, put small flags out alongside the driveway or mailbox. Be sure, however, to keep the cloth of even those small flags from touching the ground. No matter how large or small the Stars and Stripes are, they should never touch the actual ground.

If you are in an apartment or do not have a place outside to display a flag, you can always display it in a window or put it somewhere prominent in your home. Be sure, however, to make sure that you are following proper flag etiquette when you decide to hang the flag indoors. Most people are at least aware of the basic rules for flying the flag outside, do not let it touch the ground and always have it lit, but are unaware of the correct handling of an indoor flag.

Pay Your Respects

This nation was bought and paid for with the blood of brave and loyal soldiers. Show your patriotism and pay your respects to the fallen. Visit a cemetery known for having many military members buried there. Say a prayer or leave flowers for the fallen. You can also leave a coin on a fallen soldier’s grave. The coin is a sign to the soldier’s family that someone stopped by the grave to pay their respect. Pennies can mean simple respect or that you knew the soldier who died. Nickels and dimes have been said to mean that you and the soldier trained in boot camp together or served in the same company, respectively. Quarters are meant to indicate that you were with the soldier when they died. The meanings of the coins are not hard and fast, but they are an easy way to show respect to those who died defending their nation.

You do not have to travel far to pay your respects to fallen soldiers. You can certainly travel to a place like Arlington and pay your respects to the many fallen veterans, but you can also show your thanks to the dead who came from your own community. Visit your local graveyard and look for the headstones that mention a person’s military service. When you find them, take a moment to thank them and pay your respects. 

Thank Your Veterans

When thanking those who defend your country, do not forget to show respect to the living. Thank veterans you know for their service both in word and in action. If you see a pair of soldiers in your favorite coffee shop, cover the cost of their drinks as well. Instead of fighting for the best parking spot, yield to the car of the veteran. 

Your thanks does not have to be given in person either. You can show your gratitude to your veterans by donating to a good cause, taking part in a pro-veteran demonstration or helping raise money for veterans and veteran services. If you enjoy event planning, get together with friends and organize something in honor of local veterans. Do not forget any veterans you know either. For them, a simple thank you and a smile or hug might suffice to let them know you appreciate what they did for your country.

Learn Something New

Patriotism is not just about wearing the right colors or flying the flag. It also requires understanding your country. As such, one good way to be patriotic is to learn something new about your nation. Dig into the details of its founding and learn about the often forgotten moments that made such a difference. Learn about the context that the nation’s early laws were created in and study the lives of important figures. Teach yourself something new about the nation you love.

Revisit Your Roots

History is a valuable subject to study, and there is a great deal to be learned from the past. Take some time to revisit the roots of your nation. For Americans, read the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. Pick up some of the Federalist papers and remind yourself of how this nation was formed. Pay attention to both the ideals that the nation was built on and the context in which it was born. Avoid being lazy and simply accepting a brief overview of history. Dig into the events that formed your country and that shaped it into the nation it is today.

Hear All Sides

No nation is a monolith of ideas, and part of patriotism is truly understanding your country. You cannot do that if you only listen to those people who agree with you. To practice being patriotic, take some time to read or listen to the people on the opposite side of a debate. Really try and understand instead of looking for holes in their argument. You do not have to agree with the other person, but you should at least try to understand where they are coming from and why they think the way they do. It is hard to claim to love a nation when you cheerfully ignore half the people living in it.

Being patriotic is about more than cheering at fireworks on Independence Day. It involves really knowing your country and loving it, imperfections and all. So sit down and become a student of history. Then, when you fly that flag, you will understand what it truly means.