Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Red, White, and Pink?

A nation’s flag is intended to engender pride and respect, and to promote a sense of everything that’s right about a country and its values. Patriotism is an indefinable, intangible that is more felt, or known in the regions of the heart, than something reproducible.

Americans are arguably the biggest flag wavers in the entire world. In my travels across continents, I have seen the American flag fly from a variety of locations. Most notably, a sense of real excitement surges in the breast at the sight of the Stars & Stripes fluttering in the breeze proudly situated atop an American embassy. This was wonderfully portrayed in the movie, “Not Without My Daughter,” when the American woman, played by Sally Fields, and her on-screen daughter managed to escape from Iran. Their harrowing journey finally had them arriving in Turkey. As they wandered through the streets of this strange city, they suddenly glimpsed the fluttering of a large American flag behind a grove of trees. They had found the American Embassy!

Other notable moments when the flag has been proudly displayed are part of our American memory. Though most of us were not present for many of these events, our pride in our country gives us a feeling of actually having witnessed the event. How can we not feel the excitement of Francis Scott Key penning the words of the Star Spangled Banner while a prisoner on a British ship? We declare that inspired moment every time we sing our National Anthem. The whole song is about the flag still flying despite an awful barrage all night long. There she stood, tattered, torn, yet still flying proudly in defiance of her enemies.

Those of us who have served in the Marine Corps hold dear the magical moment when five Marines and one sailor raised the flag atop of Mount Suribachi on the blood-soaked island of Iwo Jima, February 1945. An excellent book to read on this event and the men who raised the flag is, “Flags of Our Fathers.”

Many of you will remember when American astronauts planted the American flag on the moon, July 1969, fulfilling President John F. Kennedy’s challenge to have a man on the moon within the decade. That was quite a feat, and was a welcome bit of news for us as Americans at that time, what with the Vietnam War, campus activism, inner-city race riots, free-love, drugs, and the list goes on. For a brief moment, at least, we could celebrate being Americans again.

After 9-11, the American flag was flying high and proud. We would see it on freeway overpasses; protruding from car windows on specially made plastic staffs to withstand the force of the wind; and flying from many homes in every neighborhood. My heart would swell with pride simply driving down the street. It is a time I will never forget.

But something has happened. Most of the flags no longer fly in front of homes. Those that are flying look run-down, tattered, and faded. Flags flown over businesses are typically torn, the white stripes have become a dingy gray, the blue field is purplish, and the red stripes are – pink!

The flag deserves to be treated with respect for it embodies the freedoms we share as citizens of the greatest country in the world.

I’ve done some checking. You can order an American flag on line for your home that will run you from $8.00 - $25.00. Flags flown over business establishments cost $150.00 - $180.00.

So, here’s my proposal. Write into your annual budget (for your business and /or family) the amount for a new flag to be purchased every year. This way you never have a disheveled flag. And keep this in mind: most American Legion Posts regularly conduct a dignified flag burning ceremony, often on Flag Day, June 14th. Contact your local American Legion Hall and inquire about the availability of this service.

My friends, take a moment to look closely at the flag that flies from your home or place of business. What do you see?

Do the right thing.

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