And I gladly stand up,

next to you and defend her still today.

' Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land,

God bless the USA.

Ever since Lee Greenwood's song "Proud To Be An American" was played at the 1984 Republican National Convention before President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan, the flag-waving tune, which includes the above chorus, has remained a patriotic anthem. The song was a morale booster in the nation during the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991, and its popularity rose again after the terrorist attacks of 9-11-01 on America as well as during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Whenever we hear or see reports of America's prestige in the world being trashed, we are reminded of those lyrics. With the number of bad reports surfacing in just the last week here at home, the words are important in helping us regain our balance and to remind us of who we are as a nation.

Here are some examples of who we ARE NOT as Americans:

Ÿ We are not those Secret Service agents and military service members who preceded the president's visit to Colombia, embarrassing America with a prostitution scandal and coverup which government investigators are still trying to sort through.

Ÿ We are not the General Services Administration officials who went on financed junkets to Hawaii, South Pacific islands, California's Napa Valley and Palm Springs; stayed in resort hotel suites, and threw lavish parties, all on the taxpayer dime while this nation's economy was in dire straits.

Rather than dwelling on these scandal-ridden government agencies, we can feel much better about some individuals in the news recently for exhibiting true American values and ideals.

As Americans, we can take pride in:

Ÿ Major league pitcher Jamie Moyer, whose foundation has raised millions of dollars to help support hundreds of different programs that help children in distress in a variety of ways. One of those projects is Camp Erin, the largest network of free bereavement camps in the country for children and teens who are grieving a significant loss.

Ÿ Pro football player Tim Tebow whose foundation inspires people to make a difference in peoples' lives throughout the world. Urban Meyer, his college coach, said Tebow "has made community service and commitment to serving others a cool thing among his peers. He has changed the way kids his age look at helping others ..."

Ÿ Legendary Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt, who revolutionized the women's college game. Despite announcing her retirement after being diagnosed with an early stage of Alzheimer's, Summitt will continue mentoring and teaching life skills to players, and continue her active role in the fight against Alzheimer's.

Ÿ Entertainment icon Dick Clark, whose 'American Bandstand' show boosted numerous musical careers. While that show helped launch rock & roll, Clark was to later become forever connected to the New Year's Eve celebrations from Times Square. "The world's oldest teenager," who always left us smiling, died Wednesday at age 82.

Finally, we believe America is Leslie Sabo, of Ellwood City, Pa. who died at the age of 22 while trying to save fellow soldiers from a North Vietnamese ambush in May, 1970. Sabo charged an enemy position, drawing fire away from other U.S. soldiers, and also threw himself onto a wounded comrade to shield him from a grenade blast.

Next month, Sabo's widow will receive his Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com