I have never had much exposure to the military. I’d never been on a military base or really had a direct line-of-sight to what it means to serve this country. Don’t get me wrong; I have always had a healthy respect for our men and women in uniform, but from a distance.

Let’s face it; we work in marketing and communication. We use our creative and technical know-how to connect companies with customers, try to motivate action, excite people to buy. This seems light years away from the camouflage, regimen and pride of those who choose careers in our US Military. But should it be?

Somehow, by the hand of fate I suppose, I ended up celebrating the 4th of July at the Pensacola Naval Base, home of the Blue Angels, not just as a casual bystander, but as a guest of the Commanding Officer and his family. And it was an experience worthy of a marketing campaign.

We visited the naval beach where the diversity of its families went unnoticed as they enjoyed the day in complete fun and harmony. We met a variety of men and women who were happy to enthusiastically welcome a stranger, actually looked you in the eye while talking with an occasional “yes mam” or “yes sir” that seemed natural. We talked with naval families who were thrilled to spend time with their loved ones back from deployment or who came to just support their wives, husbands, sons and daughters on this important weekend. It seemed a microcosm of how things should be.

Everywhere in Pensacola were visible signs of support and pride for the naval base, particularly the Blue Angels.  Banners hanging from balconies, signs in local stores and even names of streets were visible evidence of local pride. The Navy makes an effort to market the importance of the base and its troops to the community. Grass roots. And it seems to be working.

What would happen if we unleashed our marketing know-how to give our nation a glimpse of the lifestyle, sacrifice, hard work, respect and camaraderie that is second nature to this amazing group of Americans? Not from a distance, but up-close and personal.

Would we crowd-source videos to tell the story? How about building a landing page to begin the experience? Could we create a brand strategy to build greater pride and loyalty? How would we communicate the vision and the actions we are taking to achieve our goals?

Could this campaign teach us what it means to be better Americans? Bond us closer as a country. Help us soften attitudes and motivate change. Inspire us to achieve more.

Today, so many things are challenging for our nation. Just turning on the TV reminds us of how hopeless some things feel and how it seems there is little we can do to change.

But, being in Pensacola this past weekend reminded me of everything that is right—young men and women celebrating their contribution to a nation that allows us the luxury to choose our dreams.

Together. Excited. Headed in the same direction.

On the 4th of July, Darius Rucker and others played with passion for these troops, and mid concert the entire crowd stopped when it heard Taps. Thousands of people immediately turned to face toward the flag as it was retired for the night—as it is retired on every night—with all standing at attention, hands saluting. It took my breath away.

As the flag lowered, I was thinking of how grateful I was to be standing there with my family; to be a business owner; to have wonderful employees; to have had a choice; and to live in the land of the free.

As Americans, amidst all the problems of our nation, we have so much to be proud of and much to be thankful for.

Maybe America needs some more good ole fashion marketing to get the word out. Sign me up.