A final salute to one of our veterans

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The post commander for the Veterans of Foreign Wars reads these words at the service for all our veterans when they reach their final resting place: The red of our country’s flag was made redder by his/her heroism, the white more stainlessly pure by the motives which impelled him/her; and in the starry field of our nation’s glorious banner, the blue has been glorified by the service he/she has given for American ideals.

I heard those words on Saturday at the service for the father of one of my dear friends who served our nation during the Korean conflict.

At the grave site, as I have witnessed so many times before, an honor guard fired a salute of three volleys from their rifles. This comes from traditional battle cease fires where each side would clear the dead. The firing of three volleys indicated the dead were cleared and properly cared for.

Next a bugler played taps as sweet and beautiful as I have ever heard. Originally composed to signal “lights out” or the extinguishing of all light for bed time, taps is played at funerals of veterans to honor the extinguishing of a life.

Finally with all the reverence it deserves, two military honor guards in their dress blues folded Old Glory (13 times), with more attention to detail than most of us at the grave side service will see outside another military funeral, and handed it to his widow. 

Formally, the flag is called “the flag of the United States of America.” But almost no one calls it that—unless they’re saying the Pledge of Allegiance. More often than not, it’s referred to as the American flag. Other nicknames, that I have not already used in this column, include The Stars and Stripes, the Red White and Blue and the Star-Spangled Banner.

We’ve all heard it before but it never hurts to be reminded that everything on the flag has a meaning.  The 13 stripes of course represent the original 13 colonies that broke away from England and the stars stand for the 50 states we have become. Each color has a meaning. The colors of the pales (the vertical stripes); white signifies purity and innocence, red, hardiness and valor, and blue, the color of the chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice.

The flag raising photograph on Iwo Jima by Joe Rosenthal is probably the most famous photograph of our flag ever taken. It represents the sacrifice of all who have fought for freedom on foreign lands throughout our history.

The Red White and Blue has been featured in songs and movies throughout our history, with none better than George M. Cohan’s 1906 musical George Washington Jr. and of course the song everyone knows it by You’re a Grand Ole Flag.

Allana Chitwood, a princess candidate for last week’s Belle Fair, performed a wonderful rendition of Johnny Cash’s Ragged Old Flag for her talent before the judges, while her grandfather, Jim Zumwalt, Sr. sat on a bench with the flag standing proudly beside him. It’s a shame, but the local storms last Wednesday kept Allana from performing her talent for the fair goers. 

After describing all the turmoil the flag has endured the last two stanzas of Cash’s poem are as follows:

And the government for which she stands

Is scandalized throughout the land

And she’s getting threadbare and wearing thin

But she’s in good shape for the shape she’s in

‘Cause she’s been through the fire before

 

And I believe she can take a whole lot more

So we raise her up every morning

We take her down every night

We don’t let her touch the ground and we fold her up right

On second thought, I do like to brag

‘Cause I’m mighty proud of that ragged old flag

The next time you have a moment, listen to Cash’s performance on Youtube. You can view a photograph of Allana giving her talent next to my column on our website.

Some in our country believe the U.S. flag is a symbol of prejudice and hate. I have to respectfully disagree. With the same logic that says guns don’t kill people, people do, a flag cannot be prejudice. It is an individual who becomes hateful and prejudice towards others for reasons I will never understand.

The Stars and Stripes is a symbol of our country, with a constitution that helps us, as citizens to fight and eradicate hate and prejudice.

In small town America -— where most of us live —  the Star-Spangled Banner is proudly displayed, especially during national holidays. Our house is one.

Here’s one final salute to “Whoop,” — may your memory live on in all of us who knew and loved you.

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