#WhyWeCelebrate enters second year, founders speak out

Last year around this time, Mike and Heather Whaling of 30 Lines and Geben Communication started WhyWeCelebrate to recognize Independence Day and honor the U.S. military.  They asked people to share their stories on their own blogs, using the Twitter hashtag, #WhyWeCelebrate, or on the Facebook page.

This year, they centralized the effort to create a hub of stories at www.whywecelebrate.com about why we celebrate the men and women who protect our freedoms and defend our country. As an Air Force civilian employee, I’ve worked with our military for nearly a decade now. I witness why we celebrate them up close and personal every day and could go on about them for eternity.  They are the best of America.

After hearing about Mike and Heather’s awesome campaign, I wanted to know more. I wanted to know what was behind the idea and what they hope to achieve. Here’s what they told me.

Heather Whaling, aka @prtini

1. What compelled you do this originally?

Heather: During holidays like Fourth of July, it’s easy to lose site of the fact that there are lots of people serving overseas who can’t attend barbecues and fireworks with their families. My brother, a veteran of the 82nd airborne, served in Iraq and Afghanistan, so this is a cause that’s important to me, and I believe whatever your political stance, we can all agree that it’s important to honor the active-duty military and veterans.

2. For 25 of the last 26 years, the military has topped the Gallup confidence in institutions poll. Why do you think that is?

Mike: Whether we realize it or not, I think we have a deep-rooted appreciation for the freedoms we’re provided in this country … after all, that’s really why we celebrate Independence Day. Our continued confidence in the military is just one way to show our appreciation for the institution that bears the greatest responsibility and makes the greatest sacrifices for maintaining those freedoms.

3. What do you hope to accomplish this year?

Heather: Our goal from the beginning has been the same: Use social media to encourage people to take a minute to honor and appreciate the military. This year, we’re asking people to submit photos and stories to www.whywecelebrate.com. The more diverse the stories the better. For example, photos at fireworks selections, letters of thanks to military, memories of family gatherings, links to articles about military families, or even videos of kids reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. We hope to compile a collection of celebrations, reflections and activities from around the country.

4. What was the most exciting thing about the inaugural campaign?

Mike Whaling, aka @30lines

Mike: Seeing others pick up the idea and run with it … without expecting anything in return. Everyone we talked to seemed to “get it” right away, and they all brought their own unique perspective and stories about their brothers, sisters, fathers and grandfathers who had served their country. To see other people, companies and organizations sharing stories and asking their contacts to do the same was amazing and invigorating.

5. Do you have aspirations for #WhyWeCelebrate in the long term?

Heather: That’s still to be determined. For now, we’re just thankful that so many people are willing to participate in the effort and we look forward to seeing the stories submitted this weekend.

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