When I was growing up June had two days of great import. The first and lessor day was June 14, Flag Day. The really important day was June 16, my birthday. For the longest time I thought that Flag Day was honored to remind me that my birthday was just around the corner. The little town I grew up in had a small flag-honoring ceremony but it wasn’t until 1967 while stationed in Saigon during the Vietnam War that I felt the flag was truly a part of me.
I rounded a corner and there before me stood the United States Embassy, a large white building surrounded by a high wall and a stout gate guarded by two Marines. But what drew my attention was the grand American flag that was proudly flying above the embassy roof.
As the flag rippled in the gentle Asian breeze, I was flooded with pride and goosebumps ran up my spine. I stopped and saluted that flag. I saluted it with the pride of America that I had learned each morning as we recited the Pledge of Allegiance in the first grade, I saluted it with the pride that I had felt when as a Boy Scout I had carried the flag during my small town’s annual Memorial Day parades.
When I returned to the States after my enlistment ended I found a country far different from the one that I had left those few months earlier. The Vietnam War, begun under Democrats Kennedy and Johnson had lit a fire of divisiveness and civil disobedience across America. Protesters were burning their draft cards, their underwear and even my beloved American flag. That was the day that I became a Republican.
Yes a lot has changed. But my respect for the American flag and trust in the American form of government endures. It has not changed.
The next time you have an opportunity to watch an American citizenship swearing-in ceremony carefully watch the faces of those new citizens. The tears running down the cheeks of the new citizens speak volumes to the voice of the American flag!