Flag Day Honors American Ideals, Sacrifices
(June 14, 2010)
The American flag sways in the
wind at Forward Operating base Baylough in
Afghanistan's Zabul province, June 6, 2010. U.S.
Army photo by Spc. Eric Cabral
WASHINGTON, June 14, 2010
Military personnel at Dover Air
Force Base, Del., performed their duties with solemn respect
over the past several weeks as U.S. servicemembers killed in
Afghanistan returned to U.S. soil.
Military “carry teams” marched in slow, measured steps as
they carried their fallen comrades from the aircraft and
transferred them to awaiting mortuary transfer vehicles.
The fallen servicemembers – representing all services, all
ranks and every corner of America – all returned home in
transfer cases draped in the American flag.
Today, the United States observes National Flag Day, an
annual tribute to the American flag, the ideals it stands
for and the sacrifices made to preserve them.
President Woodrow Wilson recognized during his first Flag
Day address in 1915 that the freedoms the U.S. flag stands
for weren't and never would be free.
“The lines of red are lines of blood, nobly and unselfishly
shed by men who loved the liberty of their fellowship more
than they loved their own lives and fortunes,” he said. “God
forbid that we should have to use the blood of America to
freshen the color of the flag.”
But American blood has spilled time and time again to
preserve American liberties, most recently, in Afghanistan.|
Just as during heartbreaking ramp ceremonies in Afghanistan
before fallen servicemembers return, and during
dignified-transfer ceremonies at Dover, history is filled
with examples of how the flag has inspired Americans through
their proudest as well as darkest days as a symbol of
patriotism, strength and resilience.
It provided strength to now-retired Air Force Col. David M.
Roeder as he and more than 50 other Americans held hostage
in Iran for 444 days from 1979 to 1980 watched their captors
taunt them by carrying garbage wrapped in the U.S. flag.
“When someone attacks the American flag, it's because they
recognize all that it represents and the greatness of this
country,” Roeder said, thinking back over the experience.
It inspired retired Marine Chief Warrant Officer Charles W.
“Bill” Henderson as he watched the flag-draped remains of
Marine Cpl. Robert V. McMaugh carried from the rubble after
the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983.
“Yes, it is just a piece of cloth,” Henderson later
reflected. “But what it represents are the lives of
thousands of Americans who have given everything for this
nation – who ask nothing in return but felt an obligation of
duty to their country.”
Few Americans will forget their shared sense of pride as
they watched televised images of three firefighters raising
an American flag over the World Trade Center ruins just
hours after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Members of the International Security Assistance Force and senior officials from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, pay their respects to nine U.S. soldiers killed in Nuristan province during a ramp ceremony at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.
State Department photo by Daniel Wilkinson
Army Capt. Joe Minning and his fellow New York Army National
Guardsmen, many of them New York City firemen and police
officers, were sifting through the rubble in a desperate
search for survivors that day when they paused to watch Old
Glory rise. “Seeing the flag raised above all of the rubble
and ruins of the World Trade Center instilled a new sense of
pride in me for our country,” Minning recalled.
The flag continued to inspire Minning and tens of thousands
of other U.S. servicemembers during deployments to Iraq and
In April, it provided strength to Sal Corma, who left his
hospital bed following a stroke and amputation against his
doctor's orders to see the body of his son, Army 1st Lt.
Salvatore S. Corma II, who had been killed in Afghanistan,
arrive at Dover at 2 a.m. on an April morning. Less than
three weeks ago, he and his wife, Trudy, recognized a
Memorial Day that had taken on a deeply personal meaning by
placing 60 American flags around their home.
Today, as operations intensify in Afghanistan, troops at
Forward Operating base Baylough in Afghanistan's Zabul
province have an enduring reminder of the ideals they are
fighting for. High on their observation post overlooking a
mountain value, standing proudly amid a pile of sandbags,
Old Glory waves in the breeze.
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
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