Approximately six months ago, congress passed a bill (s. 1877) that probably bore no significance at all to the vast majority of the population, but thrilled a select few. Until July 25th, 2007, veterans of the United States military were encouraged to place their right hands over their chests for the national anthem or a raising of the nation’s flag. But now we are permitted to continue to demonstrate pride in military service and devotion to our country. We can salute, however out of shape, old, or retired we may be. We took an oath that extended well beyond the few short years of our service – an oath that, so long as we draw breath, we salute our flag, honor our country, and, summoning arthritic joints and bent backs into a rigid position of attention, offer continued allegiance to the United States.
For some strange reason I don’t quite know
The flag most always makes me cry.
Perhaps it’s men who tossed down arms
To battle-march with old glory high.
Or children perched on parents’ shoulders
Cheer draped fire trucks paraded by.
Or every athlete, every bleacher standing
No one moves or bats an eye.
As the anthem plays and the flag still waves
Against a summer’s twilight sky.
Those stars, those stripes I oft saluted,
As did many millions before I.
On the covered coffins of recent fallen
Carried slow to where they’ll lie.
Or strangers clapping, the welcome home
The tears come quick to my eye.
As I stand straighter and I walk prouder
I suppose I do know why.
Because every time they hoist my flag
And it most always make me cry.
In my mind, there is nothing more beautiful than an old man, hunched with age and years of living, standing straight, tall, and proud, tears coursing across his wrinkled cheeks, as he snaps a sharp, perfect salute. He is young again. He is a warrior again. He is a patriot again. And we’re free because of him.
The anthem ends and the salute drops. He picks up his cane and painfully sits back down – suddenly old again. He’s still here, you see, and he remembers his brothers who aren’t.
Copyright © 2009, Ben Shaw
All Rights Reserved