I don’t often write to make what would appear to be a “political” statement as I don’t want to contribute to the already divisive climate blanketing this country. And…earlier this year during Memorial Day weekend, The White House released an “official photo” commemorating the holiday. It was of POTUS hugging the American Flag while wearing an empty grin. I was shocked to see this administration’s profound lack of understanding of the meaning of the US flag and all which it demonstrates. Thus, it compels me to share with you a letter to the editor that I submitted and was published by our local newspaper last week:
“My father retired from the Navy in 1969. He left the service after a notable career spanning 27 years and three wars – WW!!, Korea and Vietnam. His service during the Korean War is where he most distinguished himself. On July 17, 1953 (just one month after my birth), he shot down his 5thenemy combatant over North Korea. This gave him the distinction of Navy ACE pilot and was awarded the Navy Cross. For those of you who don’t know, the Navy Cross is the highest medal awarded by the Navy. Post Korea, he served in Vietnam. We then settled in the Hampton Roads area for his final military assignment to Norfolk Naval Air Station – Command – Manned Spacecraft Recovery Atlantic. It was exciting to be that close to the machinations of Apollo 11 landing on the moon in 1969 shortly before he retired.
As a result of a childhood my father’s Naval career provided, I’m eternally grateful for all I experienced, learned and saw. Yet, for all the great places we traveled, experiences I had and memories I made, the most lasting memory was the day my dad retired. I remember his ceremony vividly. Attired in his formal “dress whites”, looking handsome and distinguished, he stood on the stage behind the podium speaking his final words as an active member of the US Navy. It was a breezy day with the American flag being carried about in all directions. Towards the end or his remarks, the US flag seemed to know he was retiring. For as he closed his speech the flag suddenly and gently wrapped itself around him as if to say “thank you for your service” A momentary hush descended over the audience followed by a grand applause. It was a breath-taking moment defining for me what it means to be a real patriot: a real patriot doesn’t have to hug the flag or use it as a prop to demonstrate one’s dedication and love of country. The real patriot wears the American flag in one’s heart and by that is eternally “hugged” by the flag.
His flag, wrapped up in the standard military triangle pattern and contained in a wooden viewing case, sits in my home office now. I see it every day. And as I look at it, I am warmly reminded of the opportunity I had to witness up close what real patriotism looks like.”
I am deeply aware that there may be some readers who disagree with my perspective. I’m okay with that; I know we both love our country. So, agree or disagree. Most importantly though, remember that one of the primary rights that the US Flag represents is our right to freedom of expression. And I can tell you that if my dad were alive today he would back me up on that statement. He defended it his entire life. Much gratitude to all our military – active, reserve and veteran – who’ve done the same. They, like my dad, are the real patriots.
(P.S. The letter shared above is the pre-edited down version. The paper has a 250 word limit but they retained its central theme giving it the same impact.)