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October 25, 2017

“Hats Off! The Flag is passing by”

Tom McLaughlin

I stand when the National Anthem of the USA is played. I stand while the flag is being raised with a hand over my heart. I stand when the flag is passing by.


I become emotional when I see the flag at an arrival airport when I return home to America. I stood when the flag was folded at my father’s funeral and presented to me. When Dad couldn't do it any longer, I placed the flag out on the hook overlooking the ocean each morning and brought it in every night.


After I left for overseas, I purchased a flag and asked the neighbor’s to fly it on their townhouse. I didn't burn the flag or disrespect the flag during the violent anti-war protests of the 60's and early 70's which I was part of.


I didn't broadcast my allegiance until now. I quietly stood up and made no fuss even though there were crowds of people not respecting the flag as they went on with their daily lives. It is personal thing, my relationship with the flag. It is what I believe the flag represents. It is not for the military because I loathe what they stand for, yet I will thank every person in uniform. They are quite surprised when I come up to them and thank them for their service. Somebody must stand on the wall for the rest of us. I understand that.


For over two weeks now, CNN International, the BBC and other stations have broadcast stories about the football players kneeling when the National Anthem is being played. Why the broadcast media chose to publicize the events for two-and-a-half weeks – and still going strong – is beyond me. The kneeling is a personal thing between the song and the player. It does not involve the owners, other players or teams. It is between him and his perception of the meaning of the song. It is none of my business why he chose to kneel, just it is none of his business on why I choose to stand.


Another event in the international media is the treatment of the Gold Star wives and mothers. I have no idea what said that infantile, sophomoric, immature, absurd, bizarre, goofy, laughable, ludicrous, silly and wacky (plus the rest of thesaurus that means stupid) President Donald Trump said. I have no idea why that asinine, daft, foolish, harebrained, idiotic (okay, If you haven't known already, I can't stand the man and I don't know anyone who does) man said to the wife. Whatever it was, it wasn't nice. Then they paraded out that dolt of a Chief of Staff and had him tell his most personal feelings about the death of his son.


The death of a loved one is the ultimate in personal grief. It means sorting out one's feelings, taking care of others feelings like the children, and where do I move on from here. The emotions are so intensely personal that there is just not room for what the president said or did. Maybe later, but not now. To interrupt the profound grief is sacrosanct and not worthy of who we are as a country. President Trump should have, but didn't, know that.


I will leave you with a poem by Henry Holcomb Bennet, which I think about every time I see the flag:


Hats off!

Along the street there comes

A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,

A flash of color beneath the sky:

Hats off!

The flag is passing by!


Blue and crimson and white it shines,

Over the steel-tipped, ordered lines.

            Hats Off!

The colors before us fly;

But more than the flag is passing by


Sea-fights and land-fights, grim and great,

Fought to make and to save the State:

Weary marches and sinking ships;

Cheers of victory on dying lips;


Days of plenty and years of peace;

March of a strong land's swift increase;

Equal justice, right, and law,

Stately honor and reverend awe;


Sign of a nation, great and strong

Toward her people from foreign wrong:

Pride and glory and honor, – all

Live in the colors to stand or fall.


Hats off!

Along the street there comes

A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums;

And loyal hearts are beating high:

Hats off!

The Flag is passing by!


...Life is good. . . . .


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