I recently accompanied my wife to place flowers on her parents’ graves. Afterward, we walked down to the veteran’s area where many brave Marines, Air Force, Navy and Army personnel are laid to rest from World War I to the present.

I recently accompanied my wife to place flowers on her parents’ graves. Afterward, we walked down to the veteran’s area where many brave Marines, Air Force, Navy and Army personnel are laid to rest from World War I to the present.
This remarkable cemetery in Olathe, Kan., features a World War I bronze soldier standing with a rifle, guarding his fallen comrades. The entire area is surrounded by 18 huge American flags positioned at half mast on Memorial Day. Each soldier’s grave is decorated with a smaller version. I noticed one of the large flag’s brass fittings had broken, allowing this most sacred of our country’s symbols to touch the ground.
I picked up our flag and did my best to refasten the brass clip; my wife helped me untie the flag to raise it off the ground. There was little wind and it hung limply against the pole as we walked away. My repair job was not perfect, but better than allowing this cloth of freedom to lie on the ground.
We walked over and sat down under the bronze soldier to think about those who gave their lives so all Americans could reflect in Old Glory’s shadow. I studied the beautiful red, white and blue colors while remembering the words of my father, who had served as a Marine in the Korean conflict: “You will always be all right long as that beautiful flag is still flying.”
Suddenly the wind picked up and all 18 American flags stretched out. We sat under a unique canopy of beauty that represented freedom. A meteorologist might have claimed that barometric pressure from a possible rainstorm created the breeze that caused those flags to open up and highlight their magnificent glory. Something told me that the unexpected arrival of this wind was a great deal more.
I can’t explain the sensation that flushed through me at that moment. Perhaps it was my imagination. Yet, the feeling that I was somehow being saluted for the simple gesture of lifting our symbol of freedom off the ground was overwhelming.
Could those brave men just a few feet away have somehow arranged for that stiff breeze to rise and not only salute me, but all Americans who love our country? Would they have included not only the brave who fight for our freedom, but those who pay their taxes and try to do what is right by our country? Would their message tell us to thumb our noses at those who detest our flag and everything it stands for?
I never knew one of those men, but I love them all as I love those fighting and dying for our country today. Our flag is beautiful like a flower – but don’t get the wrong impression. This banner of stars and bars has a lot of muscle and deliberate determination to back it up. Freedom dictates having the backbone and resolve to never back down and be conquered.
A close friend of mine, John Routh, who island hopped while fighting the Japanese during World War II talked of his friends who often spoke fondly of home while lying in the sulfur-caked soil during their island campaign. More than once a sniper’s bullet made sure they never returned, including one young man whom he had just talked to moments before. Army, Air Force and Navy veterans could share these same horrible memories of lost youth from an act of war.
Those young men wanted to be home for mom’s cooking, beautiful girls, fishing, movies and perhaps raising a family, but it was not to be. Yet, to a man they were proud of that flag and everything it stood for. They wanted to go home, but had to die so others could live in freedom.
So was it a big deal that our flag was touching the ground? You’d better believe it! I know that all good Americans would have picked that flag off the ground. I just happened to be the one who found it. The wind slowed, ending my salute as we drove away and each flag settled back on their poles.
Did those brave men really salute me by briefly raising the wind to make our beautiful flag stand straight? It doesn’t matter. The only thing that does matter is that our flag never touches the ground again.