Memorial Day, Flag Day, Father’s Day, and July 3 are all so close and have special meaning to me.
I collect flags, some originals, some reproductions from different periods of our nation’s history. In the collection I have a WWII Chaplain Flag, WWI signal flags, and American flags from different eras.
But the cornerstone of my collection is a modern faded 50 star flag. It was my father’s flag.
My father served in the army, 101st Airborne, Able Company of the 502, Germany. He never told me many stories. He spoke of being “the soldier of the day”. He spoke of the ocean boat trip as they weathered a storm and the sight of the White Cliffs of Dover, England.
Another time he spoke about when he and a friend from his unit, it was post-war as part of the occupying army, decided to try snow skiing even though none of the two didn’t know what they were doing.
They thought, just to begin with, that they would ski down the slope before trying to go down the slope. When they pulled over to the other side they couldn’t go anywhere so they got off their skis to turn them around. “The next thing I knew,” my dad said, “I was waist deep in snow.”
Being two boys from the southern United States, they hadn’t counted on the depth of snow in the German mountains.
My father’s time in the 101st was cut short by an injury to his right arm that refused to heal. The reason he refused to heal was because of what happened to him early in his life. At some point before he was born, the blood flow to my father’s right arm had been restricted.
When he was born, the doctors wanted to amputate him, but his mother refused to allow them to take his arm, and she massaged and worked on him regularly. She saved my father’s right arm.
While his right arm was always a little weaker than his left, that didn’t stop him from pitching professional baseball, as a southpaw, or joining the 101st Airborne. But now, because that right arm refused to heal at the will of the doctors, he was transferred. He was first transferred to the airborne artillery and then to the 2nd infantry regiment.
My father wanted to stay in the military and applied to the school for midshipmen. He received approvals from his superiors, but somewhere in the chain of command someone said he was too old for the SCO; the army was trying to revitalize itself with younger officers. I have to laugh about it because it was this same youth movement that almost kept General George S. Patton out of WWII because some thought he was too old for field command in the United States. start of the war.
Refused from OCS, my dad finished his tour of duty and came home, graduated from East Tennessee State College (it wasn’t a college at the time), and moved on with his life.
I remember my dad always wearing an American flag on various holidays. After our kids moved out and my parents moved into a condo, he would fly the flag every day, hoist it in the morning, and take it down in the evening or when the weather got bad. He even hoisted the flag the morning he went to the hospital for surgery. Unfortunately, he never came home because cancer took him away a few days later.
The flag flew unattended for several months, until one day I was visiting and noticed it. The colors had faded and he had clung to a tree branch. I took the old flag, rolled it up and put it in my car with plans to hand it over to the VFW or the American Legion for proper disposal.
The day has come to turn it over, but suddenly I no longer had the heart. Looking at this old faded flag, I was struck: it is my father’s flag. He hoisted that flag every morning and pulled it down every night. He defended this flag all over the world. He faced that flag, cap over his heart, before every ball game he threw.
As I sat in my car with tears in my eyes, I realized that this flag represented more than a nation. He represented the family. It symbolized the transmission of dreams, ideas and beliefs from father to son, from generation to generation, dating back to the founding of this nation. I brought the old flag home.
My father had this flag for years. As long as he took care of it, the colors remained vivid and true. It only took a few months without supervision for the colors to fade and the flag to fall apart.
The same could be said of the freedoms we enjoy in this country. As long as we remain vigilant, our freedoms could last for centuries. If we let our guard down, our freedoms will fade like the colors of that old flag.
I placed a flag on my father’s grave for Memorial Day and I flew my own flag for Flag Day and will do it for Father’s Day. I will also be flying my flag on July 3rd. Many will think it is Independence Day the Fourth, and partly they will be right.
But my father’s birthday is July 3, and I still remember him when I raised my flag.