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Just dropping by ... I pledge allegiance

Yevet Tenney Published on 28 June 2013

Last summer, I was driving down the road, and to my horror, there was an American flag being blown about on the street. It was covered with mud, and the only way I recognized it was the patch of stars and stripes that looked up from the dirt.

I stopped the car and turned around to gather up the flag. I could not believe someone would allow the flag to be left on the ground. Then I thought of the parade – the cars that held the banners and the children carrying flags.

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I knew then probably it was just a thoughtless mishap. No one would intentionally dishonor the flag. Yet in the back of my mind, I was troubled. Hadn’t other drivers seen the flag? Why hadn’t they stopped to pick it up before it was totally covered with grime?

When I was growing up, the flag was a sacred emblem of freedom. We were taught to honor it with our hand over our hearts every time it was displayed. We learned the Pledge of Allegiance and recited it every morning.

We were taught to stand as we heard the first few notes of the Star Spangled Banner. It was a privilege and a great honor to respect the flag because it was not just a piece of cloth sewn together in a beautiful pattern. It represented the lives of those who sacrificed all to keep our country free.

The first time I realized that everyone didn’t feel the same way about the flag was at a college graduation, where part of the students slouched in their chairs, hat in place, while the flag was presented.

Now it is all too common to have the crowd continue their conversation and remain seated when the flag passes by, even if the band is playing the Star Spangled Banner.

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In the ’60s, when I was in high school, students rioted, burned the flag and refused to honor the draft. Oh, there were principles and points they wanted to make, and after all, they were exercising their freedom of speech.

Most of them were oblivious to the fact the blood of thousands of soldiers bought them the right to utter profanities and curse the country. Of course, time passed, and the incidents are forgotten in the rise and fall of daily news.

Whether these young people realized it or not, they took honor and patriotism down a notch or two. Now these same people are running our government and teaching at our colleges.

I can’t help but wonder how their children and grandchildren feel about the flag and our country. I guess we just have to watch the news to get a clue.

When you point one finger at someone else, you have four fingers pointing back at yourself. I was looking for quotes about honoring the flag this morning, and I found a website that gives a rundown on how we are to honor the flag.

I was shocked at how much I have ignorantly dishonored the flag. I want to include the list here because I am certain many of us have drifted far from true respect for the flag.

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Respect is a verb ... an action. It is important to always show proper respect for the U.S. flag. Protocol defines how we demonstrate our respect for the flag. Much of this is spelled out for us in the flag code. Among these rules and guidelines:

  • The flag should never be displayed with the union down except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.
  • The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water or merchandise.
  • The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.
  • The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding or drapery.
  • The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled or damaged in any way.
  • The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.
  • The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture or drawing of any nature.
  • The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying or delivering anything.
  • The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discarded. Advertising signs should not be fastened to a staff or halyard from which the flag is flown.
  • No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen and members of patriotic organizations.
  • The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin, being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.
  • The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.

(The) salute (hand over your heart, or if in uniform, a military salute) is presented at several important times:

  • When the flag is being raised or lowered from the flag pole.
  • When the flag is passing by, as in a parade or flag ceremony
  • When reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag.
  • At the playing of our national anthem.

During these, and other appropriate occasions, the flag code establishes the proper protocol to practice in saluting and showing respect for the flag:

  • When the flag is being raised or lowered, the salute (Military salute for those in uniform) should be given at the moment the process begins and be held until the flag has been raised to the top of the pole or lowered to its base.
  • When the flag is passing by, as in a parade or flag ceremony, the salute should be given at the moment the flag passes your position and held until it has passed by.
  • When the Pledge of Allegiance is being given, the hand-salute should be given before the first words are spoken and held until the last words have been spoken.
  • When the national anthem is played, the salute should be given at the opening note and held until the last note has been played.

Reprinted with permission from Home of Heroes website.

I want it to be known that I love this country and our flag. I don’t know how to get back to the America of yesterday, when honor and respect were the touchstones for youth, but I will teach my children to honor and respect the flag because patriotism is passed from the heart of one generation to another.

My heart will always swell with pride whenever I see the flag presented at a rodeo or a parade. Tears will still slide down my cheeks when I hear the Star Spangled Banner.

I don’t know what others may do, but I will stand as long as I am able to stand, and I will pledge allegiance with my last breath to honor those who fell on battlefields to give me the right to stand and speak. PD

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