(November 12, 2007)
|During my recent induction into the Navy Chief's Mess, I was asked to facilitate a flag retirement ceremony. I had to do a bit of research as there is no official ceremony either in the U.S. Flag Code or in Navy regulations and as I was doing this it really got me to thinking about the flag and what it really means. To most men and women in the military it is far more than just a piece of fabric or a symbol. It is much more than just something we run up a flag pole and salute in the morning and bring down and salute in the evening. |
Red, White and Blue, what does it really mean?
| || ||The white . . . is for purity, purity of purpose and intention that is in our hearts and souls as well as the honor we hold dear.|
| ||The red . . . is for the blood that has been shed and continues to be shed to win and to defend our freedom.|
| ||The blue . . . is for valor and courage that binds our country together.|
| ||The blue field . . . covered with stars also represents God's Heaven under which it flies.|
|Is there anything more fitting for our military to carry into battle or for our heroes to rest under? That flag and its predecessors have flown over every battle fought by the United States since it was born on 14 June 1777. The flag has been used to bind many wounds and has covered many caskets. Have you ever seen a flag pole with the ball on top? Do you know what was originally in it? When the ball was originally put on the top of the flag pole it contained a razor, a match and a bullet. The razor and the match were to prevent the flag from falling into enemy hands and the bullet was to prevent the live capture of the last soldier standing. Pretty deep isn't it. |
How powerful a symbol is the flag that we would destroy it rather than have it fall into enemy hands. I can only imagine the feelings that ran through Francis Scott Key when he wrote the Star Spangled Banner but I have no doubt that he has not been the only person who has felt that way upon seeing our flag, especially after battle. One of the most awe inspiring things to witness is a funeral with full military honors. To see the flag draped casket, to watch an honor guard fold the flag with reverence and then to present it to the family of the departed service member that tangible symbol of their sacrifice and our nation's debt and respect. Wow! That's all I can say. When our fallen service members are returned from Iraq or Afghanistan they travel home under the flag they fought under. It is called an angel flight. I had the opportunity to see one while I was in Kuwait. I can't describe the feeling of driving around the curve and seeing the open ramp on the C-17 with the honor guard lining the sides with the flag draped casket sitting in the center of the cargo bay. I brought the convoy to a halt out of respect as the fallen angel was brought off the plane to be sent on the next leg of his or her journey home. There was nothing else on that plane. The entire plane was devoted to bringing a hero home. That is the very least we can do for them is to bring them home with respect and to cover them with the flag that represents what they died to defend. Most of us can ask for no more than to take our final rest under Old Glory.
It gives me a feeling of pride as I drive the streets of America and see the flag waving from homes and businesses. It makes me sad to see a tattered flag flying though. The feelings of pride and patriotism led to the hoisting of the flag but what led to the disrespect of flying her till she's falling apart? Do you fly a flag? Have you inspected it lately? If it is faded or torn then you should retire her out of respect. Please don't throw her away, your local VFW or Boy Scout troop will be happy to accept your flag for retirement and will handle it with respect. Also if you don't raise and lower your flag daily please place a light on it so that she doesn't fly in the dark. You can get a spotlight that plugs into a wall outlet and has a stake to place it in the ground and you can get a switch that will turn it on at dawn and off at dusk (especially around Christmas for outdoor light strings).
Flags were everywhere in the days following 9-11. There aren't so many now. Why is that? Have we forgotten? Has our patriotism died? Has our pride of just being American faded away or are we just concerned that we will offend someone. How ludicrous is that, that we should be concerned about offending someone by flying our nation's flag IN OUR OWN COUNTRY?! Yet another example of PC run amok.
Want to know what the flag means? Watch the disabled WWII veteran stand up from his wheel chair when the colors are paraded past during your town's Christmas parade. Present one in a shadow box to your grandfather and watch his reaction. Watch everyone outside on a military base stop what they are doing and salute the flag during morning and evening colors. Look up "I am Old Glory" by Howard Schnauber online and read it.
Look down your street. How many houses fly a flag? How many used to after 9-11? I leave you with this question, if you don't fly a flag why not?
May God bless you and your families.
ITC Lee Crowson, USN
Chief Crowson is an Information Systems Technician for the Navy Reserve who is currently serving on active duty at Commander, Navy Reserve Forces Command in New Orleans, LA. During his career in addition to his role as a communications operator he has functioned as an instructor for personnel entering the Navy Reserve with no prior military experience. His other duties included serving with Navy Coastal Warfare, a part of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, and with Navy Expeditionary Logistics Group deploying both to the Middle East and to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
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