CHARLESTON, S.C. –
It is the beginning of June, the Memorial Day weekend has just passed, and I am driving onto one of the local barrier islands for lunch with my family. The town has taken care to place American flags on all of the downtown poles in observance of the upcoming summer holiday season and I have to admit seeing this always fills me with pride.
When I was a little boy, seeing the flag displayed in a similar manner in my home town meant one thing - summer was almost here and school would be out soon. Over time, my days in Boy Scouts taught me the important traditions surrounding our flag, from raising to folding to the patriotic process of properly retiring it. I still appreciate those early memories, which formed my first thoughts about what our flag really means and, as I have grown, my thoughts about the flag have grown as well.
For me, the United States flag represents freedom and our nation’s commitment to achieving many challenging goals including fighting for human rights abroad and ensuring civil rights at home. It represents a lasting desire, first instilled by our founding leaders, to build on the lessons from the past and in the process create a better nation for our citizens and stronger bonds with the global community. I believe each time we salute the flag, it is a reminder of these goals and how they are dedicated to enhancing liberty and justice while at the same time reaffirming our loyalty to this great nation.
With Memorial Day in mind, there is a no more solemn representation of our citizens’ commitment to these goals than the passing of a tightly folded flag to the family of a service member lost in combat. It is a sobering and symbolic moment where a grateful nation acknowledges and appreciates the family’s sacrifice while reassuring them that their loss is not in vain. Although a very difficult time, it makes me think deeply about what we as a nation are fighting for and what we are willing to sacrifice to achieve our nation’s important purpose.
Flag Day is right around the corner and it is a time when people across the United States, both civilian and military, have their own special way of honoring the flag’s birthday. Many of you display a flag at your home and, working for the federal government, we see it go up at sunrise and come down at sunset every day. Following Flag Day, we enter a 21 day period, which lasts until Independence Day (July 4th), to honor America. On the same day this year, the U.S. Army celebrates its 241st birthday.
I have served my nation in many foreign lands. From the Middle East, to Europe, to the far Pacific, and I have seen many nations’ flags flying high, but it is the flag I wear every day, the one that represents our citizens’ commitment to the future, that fills me with the greatest pride.
So this June 14th, stop and take a moment to reflect on what our nation’s red white and blue symbol means to you and your family.