I have often been asked how I get the ideas for the monthly column. In some cases it is difficult and at other times it comes from talking with someone at the bank, grocery store, on the street or conversations with other veterans. One issue that always comes up is respect for the flag. Not just any flag but the Stars and Stripes of the United States of America. I have had conversations with a few that think by flying the flag we are promoting a nationalistic country. For many veterans the flag is a representation of our service to country and the freedoms that it provides.
By the time this column comes out the 4th of July will have been celebrated and will pass as just another day off. The true meaning of the 4th of July is the day that we as a country declared our independence from Great Britain. What a noble time in 1776 for the congress of the thirteen colonies, knowing that by declaring independence this would bring death for such a treasonous act. The facts were clear to these men that the King of Great Britain was not only a tyrant that imposed taxes upon the people and lands of these colonies, but as we now know, did so without representation of these colonies. When the war was concluded, the Constitution of the United States was signed on the 17th day of September 1787, establishing the United States as a free and independent country. The Bill of Rights would follow on September 25, 1789.
Had these colonies had representatives in Great Britain during this time, it is very possible the Union Jack would be flying on flagpoles and we would all be driving on the wrong side of the road. The national drink would be tea and not coffee. This is not to say that we are a perfect society we are not. We are only human and cannot satisfy every persons wants and wishes, so we vote at least, some of us do.
Last year I attended the 4th of July parade in Dove Creek. What a sight it was. People lined up on each side of U.S. Hwy. 491 for more than a mile, waving little American flags and snapping to attention when the Color Guard passed by. You could tell who the veterans were as the hand salutes were crisp as the day they enlisted ... well, maybe not real crisp from the older veterans, but they did stand and salute as best they could. One older veteran that I saw was in a wheelchair and was helped to his feet by those standing by as the American flag was drawing near. As the flag approached on his immediate left, his arm slowly raised, without assistance, his hand with fingers joinedd. His knuckles showed his age with a bend, his thumb and index finger wereplaced as sharply as possible to his brow with his cap proclaiming WWII VETERAN. He held that position until the flag had passed completely. He was not the only one that showed respect for the flag at that parade. Adults removed their hats, placed their hands over their hearts and almost every child I saw followed suit. As a veteran, it made me feel proud that I was a part of that salute. If you have not been to Dove Creek for the 4th, you owe it to yourself to attend.
Where am I going with this? I have not seen the respect for the flag in Cortez like I have seen in Dove Creek, Mancos or Dolores. In Cortez it seems that the American flag is not always the priority. A Color Guard should always lead the parade. It makes no difference whos Color Guard it is the American flag should always lead and never follow. If there is more than one Color Guard in the parade they should all lead the organization they represent, then everyone else follows. It seems to me that it is the Police Department and then the fire trucks (of course it is with sirens blaring so loud you can not even think) that lead the parade. Respect for our nations flag is something I feel is slipping away. Are we embarrassed to show respect for the flag of our country? I see a few honoring the flag as it passes and I have even been in a crowd where I am the only one to render a salute and feel the eyes on me as if I am doing something strange; I guess maybe I am. That is where our education system has gone wrong. If the history of our country and pride for our flag is not taught at home, it does not get taught at all.
Does it hurt me to see the American flag pass and no else seems to care? Or to see a ripped and faded flag flying outside of a business, or a flag on Main Street hanging by its bottom hook, thrashing in the wind for days? Or some gentleman at a funeral that will not remove his cowboy hat when the flag is being folded for his veteran father? Or the kid that throws the flag in the gutter (I did pick it up) because he would rather chase after candy at the parade? Yes, it sure does. I think the one thing that bothers me the most is Chinese-made American flags.
I tolerate many of these actions for one reason. The Bill of Rights to the Constitution of the United States of America, Amendment I Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Expression and speech may be two different things, but those are the freedoms that we as Americans hold most dear. I am a veteran that served my country proudly, to protect the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic. To those of you that did not serve our country and have no plans of doing so, these words may not have much meaning. In many cases, I think that some take for granted the freedoms that are afforded you because of those that have served and are serving now. Sure, we have problems with our government show me a country that does not, and I will show you a perfect world. Thank the framers of our constitution for the freedoms that you enjoy so much at the very least, when you see the American flag waving those stars and stripes, stop for one second and really look at what you see. Yes, indeed it is quite beautiful.
Please remember to listen to the monthly Veterans Forum the last Friday of every month at 8:30 a.m. on KSJD 91.5, your local public radio station.
Robert Valencia is a retired Army Sergeant First Class, Commander of Montezuma County VFW Post 5231, member of the DAV and American Legion. He can be reached at 560-1891.