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Patriotic Article
Country and Flag
By Senior Airman Jonathan G. Hernandez

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Flag Day -- What The Flag Means To Me
(June 14, 2009)

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SOUTHWEST ASIA (6/14/2009 - AFNS) -- I remember being a young boy in elementary school when every day would start out with the Pledge of Allegiance. I must have said it a million times, and I was always proud to live in a country that promised liberty and justice for all. I was proud of my country and considered myself blessed to have been born in it. History class was captivating for me as I learned about the early Americans and all that they endured to defend the ideas I'd been taught to revere and all that had been accomplished in a nation that valued ingenuity and sacrifice. I often imagined what it would be like to have been a soldier in any of the countless wars where our nation's freedom and sovereignty had been threatened.

Now, roughly 20 years later, I am proud to be a member of that country's armed forces, dedicated to its defense and to the defense of the principles it represents. Principles the first patriots fought and died for. They fought for liberty from the oppression of selfish men who cared nothing for the rights of others, and for more than 200 years patriots have fought and died to protect those rights wherever and whenever they were under attack. Now I share in the responsibility of upholding and defending those principles that have taken a small collection of colonies and turned them into the most powerful nation in the world. It is both humbling and inspiring.

The flag is more than just an identifier of our nation, it represents those principles and ideals that are sacred, that are worth paying the ultimate price for, and that have been paid for many times over. It represents everything that is good about what our country stands for. It is draped over the coffin of the fallen on their way home. It is given to the family of the fallen as a reminder of their son or daughter's valiant sacrifice and as a promise that their sacrifice will not be forgotten or in vain.

The flag is a promise of freedom; freedom to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Freedom from oppression, whether religious, social or economic. The freedom to build a better life for yourself and your family. It is this promise that has brought people to the United States since its inception, and a promise to defend those freedoms wherever they are threatened.

Whenever the flag is raised, and the Star Spangled Banner plays, I am always reminded of my own experiences in survival, evasion, resistance and escape training. The training is brief, but you experience a great deal in that short time. As the flag was flown over the simulated prisoner of war camp, I was overcome with a sense of pride and appreciation for everything it represented. I was a simulated POW for a day and a half, but that brief glimpse into the true sacrifice of those who came before me will remain with me forever.

I consider myself honored to be a representative of my nation and its flag, representing and defending the freedom and justice we all strive to stand for. Many Americans have paid the ultimate price to ensure my country's continued existence, I only hope that my actions and the way I live my life reflect well upon them and myself

By Senior Airman Jonathan G. Hernandez
737th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron
Copyright 2009

Reprinted from Air Force News Service

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