Six years ago today, I had the honor of speaking at a Flag Day Ceremony. Since today is Flag Day, I thought I’d share the speech I gave on June 14, 2008 . . .
We gather here this 14th day of June to honor the emblem of our country. This is the day set aside to honor the stars and stripes that decorate the banner we recognize as a flag of freedom.
This flag defines patriotism, and S]several days ago I received an email from Becky Demo that addresses this subject:
“A veteran – whether active duty, retired, national guard, or reserve – is someone who, at one point in his or her life, wrote a blank check made payable to “The United States of America”, for an amount of “up to and including my life.”
That email is more than rhyme and cheap rhetoric to people like Jim and Becky, and their son Jason who has served several tours in Iraq and to those of us who call ourselves veterans. To us it is more than mere sentiment—It speaks of sacrifice!
Henry Ward Beecher spoke of this sacrifice: If anyone asks me the meaning of our flag, I say to him – it means just what Concord and Lexington meant; what Bunker Hill meant; which was, in short, the rising up of a valiant young people against an old tyranny to establish the most momentous doctrine that the world had ever known – the right of men to their own selves and to their liberties. Our Flag carries American ideas, American history and American feelings. Beginning with the Colonies, and coming down to our time, in its sacred heraldry, in its glorious insignia, it has gathered and stored chiefly this supreme idea: divine right of liberty in man. Every color means liberty; every thread means liberty; every form of star and beam or stripe of light means liberty – not lawlessness, but organized, institutional liberty – liberty through law, and laws for liberty!
I can recall my four years of service in the Air Force, and each evening when the colors were retired and taps was sounded; and, almost without fail, these memories bring goose-bumps with them. I love everything this flag symbolizes, and the words of Wilbur D. Nesbit capture the essence of my feelings for the flag.
He wrote: Your Flag and My Flag—
Your flag and my flag,
And how it flies today
In your land and my land
And half a world away!
Rose-red and blood-red
The stripes forever gleam;
Snow-white and soul-white –
The good forefathers’ dream;
Sky-blue and true-blue, with stars to gleam aright –
The gloried guidon of the day, a shelter through the night.
I find it interesting that one of the first things we teach our toddlers is parade etiquette. We teach them to hold the flag in their tiny hands and to proudly wave it. Jared Gomez, a young cousin of mine and a former El Dorado toddler, has grown into manhood as a marine. As I speak, Jared is about to depart for a third tour of combat. It is the sacrifice of young men and women like him who define the significance of the Flag and give meaning to the word patriotism. They grow-up to serve our nation, to defend it and to take the chance of returning home in a flag covered casket having made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the cherished virtue called freedom.
When speaking of rights and duties associated with freedom, Calvin Coolidge said:
We do honor to the stars and stripes as the emblem of our country and the symbol of all that our patriotism means.
We identify the flag with almost everything we hold dear on earth. It represents our peace and security, our civil and political liberty, our freedom of religious worship, our family, our friends, our home. We see it in the great multitude of blessings, of rights and privileges that make up our country.
But when we look at our flag and behold it emblazoned with all our rights, we must remember that it is equally a symbol of our duties. Every glory that we associate with it is the result of duty done. A yearly contemplation of our flag strengthens and purifies the national conscience.
On this Flag Day, June 14, 2008, we stand here to pay tribute, to honor old glory, and to offer our gratitude to those who have fought and died for this country. This flag should serve to remind us of our obligation to preserve the freedom that is ours today. It is a freedom that did not come cheaply, and it is a freedom that will only be maintained if the present generation and the ones to follow are willing to pay its price.