I attended the funeral the other day of a very good man. A well-respected retired police officer; a decorated Air Force Veteran of Vietnam; a beloved member of the community and by all accounts a devoted family man.
I wasn’t very close to him personally, he was a Police officer in my hometown and a friend of my Dad’s. My best remembrance of him was getting pulled over by him for speeding when I was 16 1/2 years old. He didn’t give me a ticket, he just told my father. That was enough; my dad read me the riot act for disrespecting a police officer, his friend and my Dad’s name. When he retired he moved up here and became a very involved member of this small but vibrant town. When I saw him last year I apologized for mouthing off to him when I was a teen. He laughed it off.
He fought cancer for 18 years before he finally succumbed.
The funeral was well attended. Many members of his home town drove the 2 hours and people from town poured in to pay their respects and hear the many humorous homages to a man who was ironically remembered as a man of few words.
At the grave site was a folded flag and a delegation of uniformed soldiers at the wait. After the local minister said his last prayer and the last gospel song was tearfully performed by a grief-stricken granddaughter the familiar sound of Taps wafted through the breezy autumn air. The delegation then proceeded to unfold and then refold, with precision echoing great training and a sincere dedication to the grim task at hand, and then handed the flag to the widow.
“On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Air Force, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”
That’s where I lost it. I challenge anyone to not be emotional when this service, which I have seen way too many times for a man my age, is performed. I freely admit that I cried. I also cried when my Grandmother was handed one, when my mother and I were handed one and I will again every time I see this done in the future. Because the Flag means something to me. And it meant an awful lot to the family.
See, that flag represents something bigger than ourselves. It represents service to country and community The very nature of the National Anthem is an observance that while bombs exploded in the night sky, in the worst possible conditions, the Flag not only survived but shone like a beacon. That flag has been a beacon of freedom to immigrants for centuries looking for a life that only the United States can provide. It has been raised on beaches, planted on the moon and it has draped every casket of every soldier who didn’t return home from battle.
This week some people are going to take a knee while that very flag is being honored. I don’t know how many because I won’t be watching. Yes, I’m one of those people that the “educated” elitist left call Patriotic, Nationalist and easily distracted from “real” issues. I keep hearing how kneeling during the National Anthem is acceptable and “their right to do so.” I’m not arguing that. No one believes in free speech more than I do.
My father once told me that while he would never disrespect the flag, but if someone were to do he would only hope that they had a hell of a good reason to do so. Because such a strong statement needs to stand on a strong issue. But in the case of the NFL the issue(s) at hand are convoluted at best, self-serving at the least and they can be handled another way.
Just because you have the right, because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Anyone who has a folded flag on their mantle will thank you.