America

From the Eyes of the Flag
I hate this. I wish that I was back up on my pole, watching over and protecting those that serve under me. I promise never to complain again about being flown out in the cold. I promise never to complain about being flown out in the wind or in the rain or in the snow. I promise never to complain about disrespect shown to me, about people not pledging their allegiance to me, about the long hours of the monotony or the blazing sun. Just please. Take me away from here.
This is worse than that Kindergarten classroom that I was flown in. The whining and the temper tantrums and the naptimes. The used tissues that never found the trashcan, and the milk cartons and cookie crumbs that somehow snuck out of the cafeteria and back into the classroom. I even now miss the smell of the classroom bunny and how no one could ever agree on whose turn it was to clean out the cage. Those little children, with their pigtails and gingham dresses, light-up tennis shoes and Thomas the Tank Engine overalls, who could never remember the words to the pledge, even if their little lives depended on it . . . it is just so unfair. Those little kids, most of them not even three feet tall yet, were so jovial, so happy, so carefree, and so innocent.
Does that world even exist anymore? I have come full circle now. Because I remember him from when he was that little Kindergartener. He was tiny, and always lost at kickball. But he was always helping people, even back then. He is all grown up now. He has a little sandy haired boy of his own.
But I’m not flying in his classroom anymore. I’m covering his casket, his final resting place, soon to be folded and handed to his wife, handed to the little girl he used to tease, the one whose hair bow he would take and run away with at recess.
How it happened, I’ll never know, and that is fine by me. Because he was in kindergarten at one point. He was small and innocent and had so much life left to live. He still had so much life to live.
It wasn’t time for him to go. He had country to serve, and baby to raise, and a wife to love.
But, I have come full circle. I looked over him when he was just starting off, and now, I cover him in death, offering my love and service in his memory.
Reflection
I heard the 21-gun salute, I saw the folded flag handed to my Great Grandmother, but I still couldn’t believe that he was gone.
And I wasn’t the only one. I saw my cousin Alex crying on his wife’s shoulder, tears flowing freely down his brother Evan’s face, both mourning the loss of their Grandfather, one of the bravest men I ever knew.
I was at the V.A.. I saw the newly dug grave; saw the machine that would lower his casket, the casket that looked so noble draped in the flag, into the frozen Earth. My hot tears stung my frozen cheeks, and they, together with the snow flurries that were floating around, fell peacefully to the ground.
My throat was dry, it was hard to sing, but somehow, I found my voice. It wasn’t easy, but somehow, I whispered the words to Chris Tomlin’s “Amazing Grace”, the one with a bridge of “My Chains are Gone”.
And then, all of a sudden, I wasn’t in the graveyard anymore. It wasn’t a cold winter morning, and he hadn’t died from Alzheimer’s.
FDR inhabited the oval office, and, at age 20, he had just gotten married. She was 16. Leonard and Mary Lee were just starting off. She quit school to keep house for him, and to prepare for the birth of their first child.
But he wouldn’t be there to see the birth of his beautiful baby girl. He left, along with thousands of other young men who knew that they had a duty to America; he left for a year long deployment to fight in the European theater.
I saw the letters that they wrote back and forth. I saw her tell him about his daughter, Vickie. “She has your nose” she told him. I saw him tell her about the weather and the food and how much he missed her. And I read him promising his unending devotion and love for her. I read as she, in her own delicate, sweet way, assured that the feeling was mutual. As I realized that, even though they were an ocean apart, they were just as in love as ever, and just as committed to forever, my tears fell faster and hotter.
And then fast forward.
His homecoming.
The birth of 4 more babies, 2 girls and two boys.
Weddings.
Grandchildren.
Weddings.
Great grandchildren.
Me.
And then, the Alzheimer’s. And as fast as it took for him to kiss her when he got home, as quickly as she rushed into his arms, I was brought back to the present.
I had traveled through time, through 70 years of her being right by his side. And she still is. She hugged his coffin. And, she whispered into the box, whispering to her husband one final time.
“I love you”
The Flag
Some say that it is just a piece of cloth.
But they are wrong.
It’s so much more than a folded triangle, caressed and clutched tight to a mother’s chest, catching her tears as they fall unchecked and unabated.
It’s more than a folded triangle, displayed proudly on the mantle, looking down on Christmas morning, watching over the son that he will never know, watching his little boy unwrap miniature green army men and new camouflage pajamas because he wants to grow up and be just like the Daddy that was taken from him.
It’s more than a folded triangle to the widow who sleeps with it framed gallantly above her dresser, a constant reminder of the husband who loved her and country, who will never come home to give her one last kiss, one last night, one last “I love you”, who will never know that she was carrying his child.
And it’s more than a folded triangle to the daughter who doesn’t have her daddy there to walk her down the aisle and give her away, to the high school that lost the greatest football coach that they ever knew, to the young lover who missed out on forever.
And it should be more than a folded triangle. Because it means that we lost one of the men that makes America great.
It is not a debate. The American flag is something holy and precious and sacred. It is not something that should, or can, be burned in an act of mindless or infuriated protest. And it is not something that should be flown indifferently and cavalierly.
Those who think that the flag is just another piece of material waving in the wind are wrong. Because it is not.
It is the dying wish and desire of men who willingly give their everything, men who give their everything for people who scoff at what they revere, who mock everything that they hold dear. The American flag is men who die so we have the freedom to burn it. It’s the tangible representation of our freedoms, at the cost of their sacrifice.
The flag that graced the coffin of a fallen soldier or first responder or a veteran is an honor to those they cover, a comfort to those that loved them, and should be a call to action for the rest of us.
Some say it’s just a piece of cloth, tattered and faded. Meaningless and insignificant in the present political climate.
But they are wrong. And they always will be.
Because it is more than a folded triangle. And it always will be.

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