When I was born, my dad was serving with the army band stationed at UN Headquarters in Tokyo. (Until I was about five, I thought that this made me half Japanese.) The experience profoundly changed the life of that rural Illinois preacher’s kid. While overseas, he lived in Tokyo and Yokohama–two very large cities. He befriended a great number of Japanese people–the very people who were so despised in the U.S. at the time. He sang in the chorus for a Billy Graham Crusade in Tokyo. And, in a very moving ceremony, his unit played for the return of the unknown war dead from the Korean War.
Apparently, the taste for big city living didn’t rub off on my dad because he and mymom settled in small town Iowa–where they still live. He was the high school band director in the same school district until he retired. Every Memorial Day he still marches with the American Legion in his original uniform, along with the local high school band that he used to conduct, to the Strawberry Point cemetery.
Do military veterans like my dad possess a greater reverence for the flag than civilians? Or is this an illusion created by the expertise with which they handle the flag? The answer may be that military service teaches the proper etiquette that inspires such awe.
My mom, however, has just as much respect for the flag as my dad. They both take responsibility for flying the flag on the front porch on patriotic holidays. She attends the Memorial Day ceremony diligently. And, she is very proud of two uncles who served in Europe in World War II.
Perhaps those of us who haven’t experienced the devastating impacts of war don’t or can’t have the same passion. On the other hand, most who remember 9/11 feel awesome gratitude for those who serve–both in the military and in public safety.
Whomever acknowledges the sacrifices made by those who went before us and recognizes those who still serve, honors the flag appropriately. Memorial Day and Armed Forces Day provide a public venue to express gratitude. Hoist your flag high this month.