Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Rant or A Rave?

Memorial Day ...
 a time to remember the people who have sacrificed their lives for the cause of freedom.
Memorial Day ... 
a time to fly a flag, salute a flag and remember what it stands for.

 I was raised by a military man whose actions, more than his words, instilled respect for and in our country.  I never fail to stand up and put my hand over my heart when a flag passes by or the National Anthem is played. The sound of a marching band sends shivers down my spine. A man in uniform makes me weak in the knees. Like my mother I shed a tear at the first few chords of "Eternal Father." And like my father I want - no expect - the red, white and blue colors of my country, the flag that has been carried into every battle by all men and women who ever fought for the things it represents, to be treated with respect.

My father could recite the all rules of flag etiquette. I learned from him that if a flag is going to be flown round the clock, it needs to be illuminated during darkness.  I know the rule, but don't get bent out of shape when it isn't followed to a tee. However if there is one thing that really ticks me off it is seeing a flag (or flags) surrounding a used car lot, or other business establishment, that is faded and tattered.  My uncle, a retired Marine, carries boxes of flags in his car. When he sees a flag that needs to be replaced he asks permission first, then ceremoniously, with honor and respect, lowers it and replaces it with a new one. The old one is disposed of per flag etiquette. I'm not a Marine, but I've been known to turn my car around to right a downed flag pole.

It's hard to see some ratty old piece of cloth that was once a proud American flag hanging forgotten as cars and people whisk by without even noticing. What, I wonder, do the soldiers who come home from war think when they see the way their standard is being treated by the ones back home? What does a parent think when they pass by the ragged  flags around Joe's Used Cars as they look out the window from the limo that is taking them to the cemetery to bury a son or daughter who lies under a flag draped coffin? And how do spouses left behind to keep the home fires burning, explain to their children that the flag their daddy wears on his uniform needs to be saluted, not forgotten?

I frequently drive on a major street in Jacksonville that passes by a large piece of property that used to be a foster home for troubled boys. The facility has been closed for a few years. I think the buildings are being used for administration or storage. One or two horses still stand in the pasture. (Do they wonder where all the boys have gone? ) At the center of the property, near the street stands a lone flag pole. Like others I paid little attention to the flag because it seems like it's been there forever. I failed to notice that it was never lit up. Until, the wind and rain and sun finally ruined the flag and left it dangling from a single worn out rope. Then, every time I passed it, I recoiled at the sight. I knew I should stop and do something, but I never did. I knew I should call someone to fix it, but I didn't know who.
Instead, I got mad every time I saw it.

I put myself in the same category of people who just didn't care. Caring calls for action, doesn't it? Knowing what should be done and not doing it is pretty close, in my book, to ignoring.

Then one day I noticed something different. The flag had been neatly folded into a perfect blue triangle, and attached somehow onto the pole so it would no longer be at risk of lying in the gutter.  I cried when I saw it, and I cry now writing about it.

I wonder who that good Samaritan was. A soldier? A father. A student? A wife? A Boy Scout? A veteran? Someone who was born in this country, or one who came here looking for a new home in the land of the free? I'd like to meet that person and say thank you.

Wishing for you time to remember,
Merry ME

1 comment:

wholly jeanne said...

I love how your uncle carried around flags. Love that. Such a beautiful, heartfelt post and yes, caring does call for action. It certainly does.