The following was written by an American Soldier who wishes to remain anonymous. Even though painful, he wears his tender heart on his sleeve for all to see.
What do you see when you lay your eyes upon the American Flag? Some see history, bravery, and sacrifice. Those characteristics definitely represent the American flag honorably, but I see much more than that. A long time ago, my dad told me upon the completion of the Star Spangled Banner that “one day you might view the flag more than just stars and fancy stripes.” He said, “you will see it differently opposed to the general populace.” He continued, “Once you fight for freedom and witness others making the ultimate sacrifice for their flag and country, then the flag just means so much more.” It is the belief of so many servicemen that the only way to view the flag more reverentially, is by fighting for your country during wartime.
Not every American has the opportunity to deploy and serve their country in a combat zone. In fact, a very small percentage of people in the whole world see combat. The substantial difference between combat veterans and the civilian population is staggering. I would say it was an honor, and a privilege to fight for my country in war.
That is part of the reason why several hate groups are compelled to stomp on my flag. If they had the insight of the devastating loss and sacrifices of American lives that went into that flag, then they might give it a second thought. When I see these inconsiderate, sub-human protesters desecrate my flag, my anger fills immediately, but that is not the only emotion that I feel. I also get overwhelmed by sadness. Holding back tears, I think of the men from my unit at Fort Bragg, N.C., who did not get to come home without being sealed in a pine box, with their American flag draped over their coffin.
It is so incredibly sad and humbling, and I cannot help but cry just thinking about it. Think about that view– all of those coffins holding the remains of our soldiers, and that flag that they swore to protect reciprocates the gesture by instead taking over the role, and now protecting them, serving as a blanket covering them up. Upon completion of our mission in Afghanistan, we gather up and start the journey back home, where the fortunate soldiers have a family to go home to, and the single soldiers turn their weapons in and head back out into the world alone with no one to welcome them home.
No one cares about what they have been through, what they have seen, and what they hope to forget. How the hell are you supposed to ignore the sounds of war? How do you forget the frightened voices of the men calling for air support over the secured net (commo), begging for help once they go black on ammo (out of ammo), begging to be rescued, crying and saying that they do not want to die? Then, the sound of gunfire ceases. Now, how the hell do you forget that silence?
When our men died, I was just thankful that it was not me. I was very fortunate to be alive. All those men who died that day had a family. Every single one of them was married and also had children. Those men will not be greeted by their wives or kids.
It was that thought that encompassed me during the first few bars of the Star Spangled Banner. As I saluted our flag and listened to our country’s national anthem, I cried. I wept. It was apparent that old SSG H was crying. I could not hide it, and I did not care. I gazed my eyes upon our flag, and I had never seen it so majestic— the colors were more vivid, and it waved above the land more proudly and more deliberately than any time before.
I see honor, selfless service, and pride— pride so strong and with an endless glory that can never be stripped from a Marine, Soldier, Seamen, or Airmen. We wear it proudly, not cowardly or shameful. Our flag is a constant reminder of our nation’s bravest sons and daughters who have spilled blood on the battlefield, not to mention the heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice and died gloriously in combat. We honor our nation’s greatest men and women who lost their lives for your freedom. Many cannot see what my brothers in arms see, but I suppose with eyes cleansed with tears, it enables you to see our nation’s flag more clearly.
Having discovered our flag in a new light, I have devoted my life to protect our flag. Too many Americans died for those fifty stars, seven red stripes, and six white bars. In the military, they taught us that our flag is not inanimate, but in fact, it is a living entity. That is supposed to serve as an extra measure to treat the flag with more reverence. Always pay tribute to our nation’s flag as you pass by it. Do not walk on idly and ignore its presence. Turn your head and look up at Old Glory and acknowledge her and give her some praise because more than 1.1 million Americans died for this country and our nation’s flag.