Standing on the shoulders

The flag, the Star Spangled Banner, God Bless America, asking the veterans to stand — all stirred into the message of salvation, beautifully expressed in song by Mike Walter, a song that delcares our statue of liberty to be the Cross of Christ who went to war for us.  Stirring.  

We heard of a soldier on his voluntary second tour in Iraq who saved his friends by throwing himself on a grenade.  We were told of the 13 folds and their meanings when a flag is ceremoniously folded as in a funeral for a veteran.  The first link is from Truth or Fiction, the second from a link on the official page of flag rules explaining that the 13 meanings, because many of them allude to Christianity specifically, are not official, but more legendary, acceptable in private ceremonies. 

My friend, Diana, a member of the Air Force Reserves, along with another member of her unit, carried the flag forward in silence, folded and displayed it in honor of the 350+ in our region who have paid the ultimate price in Iraq to preserve our freedoms as have thousands and thousands in our country’s history since her beginning.

Preacher Bob turned to the book of Joshua.  Moses led the Israelites to the promised land, but before He led them across the Jordan, He reminded them that they would be drinking from wells they did not dig and eating from gardens they did not till.  That’s us over 225 years away from those who signed away their personal futures on the Declaration of Independence for our freedoms and the freedoms of those not yet born. 

We are standing on the shoulders of those and subsequent generations who have dug wells, tilled the land, and fought the fight for us.  Not only the ones in uniform, but those they left with the children to somehow feed.  We are held steady by those who rolled bandages, knit socks, collected old tires for recycling, those who made do without new stuff and repaired what they had, those who kept on keeping on in the face of loss.  No news, slow news, not necessarily good news.

At the end of second service, everyone was given a small flag with a tag tied on it with the name of a fallen soldier on the tag.  “Would you please keep this name in a frequently seen location and pray for the family?”  The uniformed Air Force Guard women took the flag to the newly installed flag pole in a small round grassy area in front of the entry.  The veterans followed first.  We were asked to place the flag in the ground at the base of the pole, after which the Guardsmen raised the flag during the playing of taps.  Preacher Bob prayed for the soldiers’ families, and I took some pictures including in the frames Bill Blevens, a WWII vet who still carries a picture in his wallet of a buddy who died.  “Why him and not me?” has been on his mind every day since then.

“Bill, may I take a picture of you and Stan and the Guard girls by the flags?”  “You got a dollar?”

A few snaps later, we get in the car and head up the incline from the parking lot to the street.  I looked over my shoulder.  “Oh, wow.  Honey, you should see this.  What a perfect Life Magazine moment.”  No one is on the grassy area but Bill, facing away from the 350 flags at the foot of the big one waving in the breeze, his head bowed, leaning on his cane.  I will not forget that.  We are standing on the shoulders of men like these. We are enjoying the fruit of their labors, their sacrifices.

“You want me to swing back around for a picture?”  “Yes, please.”  By the time we made our way back, Jeff had helped Bill over the curb surrrounding the grass.

Later, on the way home, I cracked up.  Dramatic as the vision of an aging war veteran bowed over his cane was, in reality Bill was stranded on the grass, quietly waiting for someone to help him over the curb.  Wife Peggy was chatting in the air conditioning.

I got out of the car and approaced Bill and Jeff.  Would it be possible for you to go back by the flagpole and let me take a picture of just you alone?  You don’t even have to smile.  Jeff helped him, I snapped a solemn Bill leaning on his cane, flags behind him.  Jeff helped him over the curb again. 

“Thanks, Bill. I’m going to write about you.”

“You got a dollar?”


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