Poetry, musings, reflections, life

My Flag is Flying, is Yours?


Today is a meaningful day to many Americans. Symbolic to some, to be sure, and very personal to others!  I am a veteran of the United States Navy. I served from 1956 to 1960. I admit that this day is personal to me.

I remember a pilot who served on the USS Oriskany, who lost his life when his plane crashed in theSea of Japan. We always called him Mister Clean, because of his bald head. A peacetime accident, yet a fallen hero.

World War I veterans, world wide, have all passed away. Claude Stanley Choules of Australia, 110, was the last survivor of 70 million men who saw active service in the 1914-18 war.

According to theNational WWII Museum, 900 WWII vets are dying per day. The rate is declining as the number of World War II veterans decreases. In slightly less than six years, there will be no remaining World War II veterans alive.

I know that since 1955, at least 57,165 military men and women lost their lives in Combat alone with most of those during the Vietnam War.

The number ofVietnamveteran deaths has almost doubled since 2001 and, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ projections, will hit 103,890 this year — approaching 300 a day.

The original observance of Memorial Day, declared in May 1868, was to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the Civil War.                                                                                                                                                            “…Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from his honor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.” *                                                     General John Logan, General Order No. 11, 5 May 1868

 Many observe this day to honor all those who served in our Armed Forces. This is an admirable idea, and deserved as well.

And, yet, for many, Memorial Day is merely a three-day holiday that signifies the start of the summer season. Americans drive to the beach, the mountains, the parks, anywhere we can to escape the drudgery and repetitive daily activities. By this day, most schools are dismissed nationwide for the summer. Teachers are relieved that they now have a time to relax and recharge. Moms and Dads search for child-care because it takes two salaries to live in this modern world.  Sadly, not much thought is given to the memory of heroes. Willie Nelson sang “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys”, and being fromTexas, I also subscribe to that idea. However, I must also include the Heroes of our American Military. 

Too many Americans living in the 21st Century have ignored these heroes. Is it too much to ask that we set aside one day to honor those who served our country?  

On my 17th birthday, July 1956, I enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Honestly, patriotism played no part of my enlistment. I simply wanted “Out of Dodge”. I was ready to take the first bus or any other means available going anywhere fromPalestine,Texas. That was then. Some fifty plus years later, I now know much more about patriotism. I know that my time in the Navy was not especially eventful. I enlisted, served my time, honorably discharged, married, had children, and went about the business of making a home for my family.

Had I been born a few years later, I would have been inVietnam, then. With each news report of casualties, I hurt. I lost shipmates, classmates and family members. My country was at war. I have always felt guilty because of circumstances that prevented me from serving in Vietnam.

Today, I feel humbled each time I see or hear of any veteran who passes from this life. Yet Vietnam holds a special place in my heart, not because I served, but because someone else did. I know that person took my place.

 You may have a very different opinion about wars and the like. However, if you feel that way, then on this day, at least thank those who made it possible for you to voice your different opinion.

My friends, we do not honor wars. We honor those who died in those wars. They had a purpose. We purpose to honor them.

Visit a memorial, place flags or flowers on the graves of fallen heroes, think about the true meaning of Memorial Day and fly the flag.

 My flag is flying is yours?

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