When I was in grade school, I was taught proper flag etiquette. Among the rules that dealt with the American flag was one that I was told was among the most important and that was to NEVER let the flag touch the ground. I remember an older boy in our school that was getting ready to raise the flag at the school one morning and when he unfolded the flag, part of it unfurled and touched the ground. The boy was severely reprimanded and had to serve detention.
In boy scouts, we were again taught proper flag etiquette. We were taught how to fold the flag, how to properly raise and lower the flag, when to fly it half-staff, how to properly destroy a damaged flag and to NEVER allow the flag to touch the ground. On windy days, as many as six scouts would work together to raise and lower the flag to prevent it from touching the ground.
My dad served in the U.S. Navy from 1940 to 1946. He served on board the A.K.A. Fomalhaut. The first part of World War II, the ship was the Navy’s largest cargo ship. In early 1943 it was converted to an ammunition ship. When fully loaded, they held enough ammunition to take out any ship within several miles of them if they took a hit. Dad told me that respect for the flag on board ship was very important and that no matter what the conditions were, the flag was never allowed to touch the deck of the ship. To do so was punishable by time in the brig and possible loss of rank.
A friend of mine served two years in Vietnam as an Army Ranger. He was telling me of an instance in the northern part of South Vietnam when they had established a small base in the middle of the jungle. The base was on a hill that overlooked a river used by the Viet Cong to move troops and supplies. After destroying several enemy boats on the river, the V.C. launched a massive attack on their base. A mortar shell exploded near the base of the flag pole and when the flag started to fall, several Rangers rushed out into on-coming fire to keep the flag from hitting the ground. One of the Rangers caught the flag just as he was hit by several enemy bullets. In his dying move, he carefully curled the American flag and tucked it into his shirt to keep it from touching the ground. It was the last thing this proud American did before meeting his Lord.
At one time, American’s took pride in the American flag and treated it with the respect it deserved. They were taught flag etiquette and they practiced it.
In today’s liberal culture, flag etiquette is no longer taught and many Americans no longer treat the flag with respect. This was brought home to me yesterday when I was watching the finish of the marathon in the Olympics. Running for the United States was Meb Keflezighi. Born in Eritrea and brought to the U.S. when he was 12, he became a U.S. citizen and ran under the American flag. Meb was fourth in the marathon and just after he crossed the finish line, someone handed him an American flag. Upon receiving the flag, he proceeded to drag it across the ground for some distance before finally raising it up to display. Afterward, he again let the flag fall to the ground as he drug it around behind him. As I watched this, I couldn’t help but think of all of the men and women who have sacrificed their lives to keep the flag from touching the ground. The Army Ranger in Vietnam who gave his life to prevent the flag from being disgraced.
I’m not faulting Meb directly, because chances are, no one bothered to teach him flag etiquette like so many of us were years ago. Not only is the younger generation of Americans not being taught to respect and honor the flag, but they’re not being taught to respect and honor the nation or each other. As I watched the American flag drag on the ground, I saw the decline of American pride, honor and respect in virtually every aspect of society. As the nation has lost these three values, we have also lost our identity and greatness. It’s not just the flag that is being drug on the ground, but the rest of American society as well.
If we no longer have any pride, respect or honor, I don’t believe anything else we do will work to lift our nation from its current state. Perhaps one of the things we need to help lift America back to its former glory is to start by lifting the flag off the ground and not letting it be disgraced ever again. It has to start somewhere.