I finally did it! A year ago when Suzie and I moved into our new home I discovered that our 25’ flag pole had broken off at a seam, about knee high. Logic told me I could have it welded but lo, it was not to be. First of all, aluminum is difficult to weld, a fact I had learned when I once had to have the aluminum body on an ambulance repaired. I therefore had to try and use the old noggin. Having been at rest all these years the brain objected, but when forced finally gave in.
I should have known that its first efforts might not produce the best solutions, but I trusted in that cerebral organ and began a quest that would be enduring and successful only after many false starts. It’s reasonable that I would want to raise the flag on holidays, so I often thought of new, wonderful solutions during my limited quiet times. Logic told me that a heavy pipe clamp could marry the upper portion of the pole to the lower, but alas I found no such suitable clamp that could withstand my windy environment.
I was a bit frustrated when I discovered that both the inside and outside dimensions of the flagpole were not standard, so making a connecting coupling was made fairly unusual. Then came the brainstorm that at least for now is working. A length of plastic pipe that was close to the inside diameter would do the job if made only slightly larger. The answer was that miracle product that saves us men time after time. It was Duct tape! I found some of a thicker variety so that a wrapped layer or two would make the pipe thicker. On top of that the tape was white, which is the color of the flagpole. From there the fix was simple. So now I shall be able to raise the flag up the pole, then back down to half-mast on Memorial Day. At noon I can raise it back to its full position. Meanwhile I’ll shop to see if there are affordable lighting systems I can install. If not, I’ll take the flag down each evening.
I was told throughout my schooling of wonderful historical events concerning the birth of our nation and the foundations of freedom and liberty we enjoy today. By telling these stories a new generation of patriots were born. Our teachers were justifiably proud of the efforts of the pilgrims, the struggles in Jamestown, (only twenty minutes from where I currently live), the Boston Tea Party and the Revolution that resulted in the making of the United States.
Memorial Day was first called Decoration Day. It was meant to remember and honor the fallen soldiers of the Civil War. Over time it became a time for us to pause and remember all of those who have passed before us. Our young service men were and continue to be important to maintain our precious gift of freedom. Even when ‘rights’ are abused, or used to spread negative messages, we are a rare nation that will fight to the death for the freedom of expression and the liberty of living a life free of tyranny. While some of those rights are put at risk every day, maintaining them is still worth the fight.
In my youth I sometimes went up on Pine Hill above our little town to visit the graves of loved ones and to read the carvings on what to me were ancient tombstones. When I read the engraved dates on those stone monuments I imagined the life stories of the men and women who were buried there. Church yards out in the county had a cemetery with those upright markers as did many hilltops around the county. Family graveyards were part of the farm in many cases. Some may be overgrown, and some are well maintained. When visiting these places and those grand cemeteries, such as Arlington National Cemetery that contains the remains of the lowest and highest-ranking servicemen, we can stand proudly for the dedication those lives represented. It becomes a time to remove our caps, bow our heads and come to terms that we will join them soon enough.
I grew up in an era when folks were trying to recover from the deaths of many young men who were lost in theaters in Europe and the Pacific and later, Korea. As I finally grew into manhood I was to lose some personal friends in Viet Nam. Whether they were foot soldiers, sailors, marines, or airmen, all were precious to friends and family, and to the republic that they served. We knew something about the emptiness that results when a chair is vacated and the dark clouds gather about one we love. We respect the past, perhaps because we will soon enough be there.
At a baseball game I attended a while back the military was saluted and honored. Before the game they had a military band play a number of songs, one for each branch of the service. Veterans were asked to stand when ‘their branch’s anthem’ was played. I felt honored to stand when it was my turn. All around me grey-haired men and young alike stood to take the salute. A group of senior ‘flag’ officers that represented each branch, was on the field in dress uniforms. One general officer swore in a squad of new recruits. Shivers raced through all in attendance and hushed the crowd as the new members stood at attention. We all knew these men and women might soon be in harm’s way. Just before the game the first pitch was thrown, and we stood for the National Anthem. Again, tears rolled down cheeks as we all did our best to stand at attention and hold our hands over our hearts, proud to be an American.
I remember a parade or two on Madison in my little hometown. I think it began on Main near the tracks, proceeded to march down to Main Cross, take a right to Madison and up the hill to the grade school. The American Legion was there, the LHS band and the Ft Gay band was there. I saw Masons/Shriners, Odd Fellows, and the politicians of the day. When the flag went by the people back then knew to remove their hats and cover their hearts. Even kids learned to be still and show respect. Some veterans saluted as they remembered the sounds of war on other days. Many of those faces were lost to time, but we remembered. Some of these old men had memories; others not so much, perhaps pushed away. Thus is the cost of freedom. The World War II veterans are called the greatest generation, but the young men and women dying today are no less so. Losing the flower of our youth is a terrible price, but one deemed worthwhile by those who understand freedom. Because of this we have the hope that our children and the generations to follow will enjoy this great gift.
Our forefathers took amazing risks of life and property to create this nation and the principals of freedom. That is a rare thing on this earth, you know. Many other forms of government would choose to kick down our doors and stomp out those values. Others will infiltrate our government to slowly erode those gifts that Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Patrick Henry stood for and fought to protect. Our ‘founding fathers’ risked everything to create this great nation with those particular constitutional rights. From Bunker Hill to the current Isis battles, men still stand up for those principals and it is right that they do so.
Who knows when it will be our turn to be carried under a display of flowers, or the flag we were honored to serve? At 3:00 PM on Memorial Day, take a silent moment, bow your head, and remember the people who made this country great and worth fighting for. Let the church bells ring slowly for a moment before we rush back into whatever life remains for us, and let us be grateful that others stood in the breach, and we have done our part in honoring them.
When you visit the ballpark, go to the beach, or sail on a boat, remember those who made it possible. Thank a serviceman today. firstname.lastname@example.org