I feel fortunate to have grown up respecting our flag. With the discussion lately about whether to stand during the national anthem, I’m always reminded of this story written by my dad.
Sometime in the mid-‘40s my father, E. Lee Rae Clark, returned home after 3-1/2 years as an American Marine prisoner of war in Japan after World War II. He wrote this essay as a letter to the editor but never sent it.<
“Last night I went to a football game. Just before the game started, the colors were presented and the national anthem was played. As the strains of the Star Spangled Banner rang out over the field the picture that came to my eyes was a group of emaciated men, all sunken-cheeked and hollow-eyed, dressed in rags, singing that same anthem as the flag was slowly raised over a prisoner of war camp in the heart of Japan.
“It happened Aug. 28, 1945 in Akenobe, Japan, a mining village owned by the Mitsubishi Company. The flag, made of a red shirt, blue underwear and white Japanese g-strings, was raised by a soft-spoken Tennessee boy named Luke and a Texas lad called Red. They and others sat up three nights sewing the flag so it would be ready when the time came.
“The men who took part in that flag-raising ceremony had been prisoners of war under the Japanese flag and all that it stood for: tyranny, despotism, deceit and blind obedience. Little wonder that their voices shook as they searched their memories for the words to the song. No doubt they felt the same awe and reverence that gripped Sir Francis Scott Key when he put on paper what that flag meant to him.
“I know it will always be remembered by we who raised it and I wouldn’t be surprised if a few tears didn’t dim other eyes when Old Glory passed by.”
My dad’s experience reminds me that through all the debate over the American flag, the cost for the freedom it represents was dear. At sporting events when people do not remove their hats or joke during the anthem, it is disappointing to me that they do not have more regard for all that the flag stands for.
We need to instill that respect in our children so that future generations of Americans will understand what our flag means, and what it cost.
MEMO: Your Turn is a feature of the Wednesday and Saturday Opinion pages. To submit a Your Turn column for consideration, contact Rebecca Nappi at 459-5496 or Doug Floyd at 459-5466 or write Your Turn, The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210-1615.