Friday, July 3, 2015

Don't Burn My Flag!

Tomorrow is July 4th - American Independence Day. Two hundred thirty-nine years ago, tomorrow, the founding fathers, along with most of the colonists, announced their independence from Great Britain via the Declaration of Independence.

With that document the colonists spelled out their intention to form their own independent country, free of the rule of the King of England. Thomas Jefferson wrote the document and began with:

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Now, we could stop here and debate the fact that when the Declaration was written the phrase "all men are created equal" wasn't exactly true in the fledgling nation. Blacks and Native Americans were not included in that phrase. It took nearly 100 years for blacks to be considered even close to equal and nearly 150 years for Native Americans to become citizens of the United States. 

We can't change history, no matter how shameful some of it is. But my post isn't about slavery or injustices committed by Americans living in a different time in history. It's about the flag and what she stands for today.

It is purported that Betsy Ross sewed the first flag in 1776. Sadly, there is no documentation to prove she did or she didn't - only the word of her family, who said she got a visit from George Washington, Robert Morris and George Ross, the uncle of her late husband in May or June of that year and was asked to make the flag. 

Over the years the flag has changed with the addition of one star for each new state to the original 13 stars. The 13 stripes, representing the original 13 colonies, have remained intact.

The American flag has waved for freedom not only here in this country but in nations around the world. Everyone my age or older recognizes the photo of the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima by the Marines during World War 2. And without the United States Europe would never have defeated Hitler. We have helped liberate countries, rebuild countries, and help countries maintain their sovereignty when they were attacked by other nations.

I said the Pledge of Allegiance five days a week during my school days. When I was 19, I pledged my allegiance to the nation for which it stands and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. I spent a total of 8 years in the Air Force and loved every minute of it. I still remember my first retreat ceremony in Basic Training. Standing at attention in the Texas heat, saluting as the flag was lowered and the bugle played Retreat. I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one with goose bumps and a tear in the eye.

Following my military service I worked for the next 22 years with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. I spent 30 years in service to the people of our country and that flag was a part of it every day. I'm proud of our flag and for its meaning and symbolism. So when someone desecrates it in any way I get a little upset.

In 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that burning the flag was protected under the First Amendment. What they failed to do was get patriots to agree with them. Most people I know who served in the military won't stand idly by and allow someone to desecrate our flag in any way. 

Never was such patriotism better demonstrated than in Brooklyn, New York, the other day. A small group of ingrates decided they were going to burn an American flag in protest of the New York Police Department. They made the mistake of advertising it on social media. A group of motorcycle enthusiasts (commonly called bikers) showed up to pay their respects. Except many of them were veterans of the military. 

When one of the ingrates attempted to set the flag on fire one of the veterans snatched it away and put it out. Some of them began threatening the physical safety of the protesters who, in a typical act of cowardice, sought protection behind some of the very police they were demonstrating against. It seems they weren't quite ready to sacrifice themselves for their beliefs.

There are patriots all over the United States, many with prior military service, who will not stand idly by and allow someone to burn the American flag. We will support your right to do it since the Supreme Court said it's your right. But we'll still stop you. 

Don't burn my flag. It didn't do anything to you. On this Independence Day I proudly sing the words to Lee Greenwood's awesome song and tribute to the greatest nation on Earth:

If tomorrow all the things were gone I'd worked for all my life
And I had to start again with just my children and my wife
I'd thank my lucky stars to be living here today
Cause that flag still stands for freedom and you can't take that away

And I'm proud to be and American, where at least I know I'm free.
And I won't forget the men who died - who gave that right to me
And I'll gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today
Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land....
God bless the USA!