Our Flag and We Weep, But are Not Weak
July 4, 2015
Our stars and stripes are an integral part of this United States of America. Their colors have meaning that has taken me more than sixty years to be inspired to explain.
Blood, sweat and tears -- both from battlefields in our own land to those far away (I think of Vietnam) -- have all been shed in defense of this land in which I was born, this land that I love.
These same vital fluids have been shed by those in combat, hand to hand or weapon to weapon, but they have also been shed by those making Victory Gardens, by those keeping the home fires burning by working in factories historically staffed by men, while men were away at war. They've been shed by the children, too, as the innocence of childhood vanished in the mists of time when peace may have kept fathers and mothers home, but would have taken the liberties so many take for granted.
I can never look upon our flag without tears stinging my eyes and a lump rising in my throat, because ... my heart can see that our flag, too, has bled, sweat and cried from the cost of freedom to which so many are oblivious. The young men that left my high school, most in the late 1960s, to 'suck it up' and put on a brave outside face (while the inside were quavering in abject terror, knowing the chances were high that a return to this beloved land might not happen), did not fathom the changes that were happening as television put a face to the "conflict in the Middle East" and watchers shrank back from their TV sets in horror. These American youth that became men overnight and lost their ideals in swamps on the other side of the world, prayed they'd make it home, little knowing that home would be unrecognizable, because there would be no ticker tape parades, no welcomes, no kindness shown. Suicides and decades of pent-up pain became the lot of many, while others that seemed to have survived and thrived, still hurt a pain on the inside that no one but a combat vet can ever know.
This flag -- that represents all Americans -- has a special significance to those that fought for us under its waving field of white stars in a blue field, and red and white stripes. Those of us that were protected can never know the costs that have been paid in order that we might breathe free air here in a country that still holds out hope for oppressed peoples worldwide.
This flag we love and honor, that is so much more than just a flag, has been folded and presented to many a grieving spouse, mother, father, or child. No, its colors don't run, but they do mean more than my puny words can convey: to me, they mean God blessed America with something that still is worth the price we yet pay to be free. Our hallowed lands -- where souls long laid to rest in graveyards or in places no one ever found -- have quiet, but soul-stirring truth to tell, about how living long in freedom may mean living short in service.
To every man and woman that ever joined the service, donned a uniform, and stepped out with brave eyes fixed on our flag, praying to him or herself that another day would come in the future when he or she would return home to enjoy the freedom that only they know the cost -- this fourth of July is Independence Day. It is, in a different way, as important as Memorial/Decoration Day and Veterans/Armistice Day. Thank you for the blood, sweat and tears you shed without shame for a land without peer anywhere else. I'm so glad you love our land this much!
Julie Kay Smithson