The following article appeared in The Dallas Morning News a few weeks after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. I'm sharing it this Memorial Day, as we honor those who gave their blood to keep our flag flying high.
The current surge of patriotism has flag makers working overtime and merchants clearing shelves. Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, sold 115,000 flags the day of the terrorist attacks and 200,000 the day after.
From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans, white with foam, flags are everywhere, adding red, white and blue to the otherwise autumn landscape.
To me, it is a beautiful sight.
Of course, I am one of those patriotic souls who flies the flag year-round. One was dangling on my door the morning terror invaded our shores, and another one was hanging on a wall inside my house.
Despite what one might think, my rigid respect for the Stars and Stripes isn’t due to personal losses suffered during times of war. Instead, it is due to a lack of personal losses suffered during times of war.
You see, Old Glory represents something of great worth that I didn’t pay for. It is freedom’s signature, you might say. And the only reason I enjoy freedom’s immeasurable rewards is because someone else paid the ultimate price. Someone brave. Someone unselfish. Someone human, just like me.
Needless to say, I also cry and get goose bumps before the first measure of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is complete.
Oh, sure, the tongue-tangling words are difficult to remember and the melody is quite challenging to sing, but complicated or not, the song means something to me.
It reminds me of those wars I didn’t fight, those chaotic nights I didn’t endure and the shed blood that wasn’t mine.
Some suggest we establish a new national anthem—one that is prettier and easier to sing. But I hope we don’t. Freedom’s price wasn’t pretty or easy. The least I can do is learn a difficult song in commemoration.
No, I don’t sound like Whitney Houston belting out, “o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave,” but I belt it out just the same. My eyes never leave the flag and my hand never leaves my heart.
In fact, I have little patience for people who stand around with their hands in their pockets, chewing gum, looking bored while the national anthem is being sung.
The way I see it, if you can’t spend a few minutes honoring our flag and the brave soldiers who gave their lives defending our country, then you’re a spoiled, ungrateful brat who needs to find another country to live in.
I don’t know how long the current flag-waving gusto will last, but I hope it isn’t just a trendy, ephemeral thing. I hope it continues long after the final piece of evil-inspired rubble has been removed and the last human remains have been taken away.
But even if it doesn’t, my flag-flying habits won’t cease. Come rain or shine, peace or war, I will continue displaying the Stars and Stripes in conspicuous places, as I always have.
Not only is it my way of saying thanks to those who died that I might enjoy a life of freedom, but during these dark days of great loss and uncertainty, it is my way of saying, “God bless America…through the night with a light from above." ♦