U.S. Of A.

I'm a sucker for the flag. Always have been. At Boy Scout camp I helped fold the flag—a job of congressional importance.

They are raising a flag over a new bank building. I can see them doing it while I sit at a stoplight.

Folks in business suits cut a red ribbon with giant scissors. A group of Junior ROTC uniforms stand around the flagpole. A photographer. It’s a small ordeal.

I’ll bet there’s free finger food inside.

I’m a sucker for the flag. Always have been. At Boy Scout camp I helped fold the flag—a job of congressional importance.

The week before camp, my pal and I practiced folding bed sheets in the backyard.

Mishandling such obligations is a grievous offense in the Scouts—second only to horse thievery and using the “S” word on the camp bus.

The year before, there had been an incident. Kevin Simpson and Jerry Miller had taken to arguing over a certain brunette during the flag ceremony. While they folded, tempers flared.

Stars and Stripes hit the dirt, and a fight ensued. One of the Scoutmasters had to be revived with cold water.

Kevin and Jerry, as I understand, are still peeling potatoes in federal prison.

I folded my first flag on a June morning. Birds made noise. Cold dew hung in the air. Myriads of khaki uniforms gathered. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so responsible.

Thirteen folds. Then, I marched the flag to the Scoutmaster. He took it, and I gave a three-finger salute.

He whispered, “Look behind you, son.”

I turned to see hundreds of freckle-faces in the camp, all saluting in my direction Serious faces. A few Scoutmasters were veterans. They saluted with as much sincerity as any boy ever had.

Some things stick with you, I guess.

Junior ROTC raised the flag over the bank. The wind caught it and hurled it over the building. The word majestic comes to mind.

A state trooper on the highway shoulder showed full-salute. The truck in front of me rolled down windows and hollered. I couldn’t hear what he said, but I sure as hell hope it was patriotic.

Because my ancestors and relatives slept in battleship hulls, jumped from airplanes, and died on foreign soil. My granddaddy was buried in uniform.

My father volunteered for service but was denied because of his deaf ear. So he, and others like him, waved Old Glory over construction sites, and painted flags on barns.

Listen, I know you probably didn’t want to read about a flag. But when I see thirteen stripes soar above an average building, on an average afternoon, I feel something.

It’s not pride. It’s not patriotism. It’s affection for ancient ideas. For fifty-six signatures on a piece of parchment. For baseball. For amber waves of grain, the rocket’s red glare, and for the vet on the beach who has no calf muscles.

For us, no matter how hard we may argue.

And for three colors.

25 comments

  1. Sandra Marrar - April 3, 2017 7:17 am

    Beautiful! As beautiful as the red, white and blue!

    Reply
  2. Marilyn - April 3, 2017 8:28 am

    I still get teary when I hear the National Anthem or say the pledge to that sweet flag. Thank you, Sean!

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  3. Tom Scott - April 3, 2017 9:27 am

    Amen! So grateful to be a citizen of this great land and like you, the flag never ceases to catch my eye and remind of how great it is. Thank you for the wonderful way you write and the memories you bring flooding back into my mind each time I read your posts. God Bless America. God Bless the Red, White and Blue!

    Reply
  4. Constance Ridgway - April 3, 2017 10:17 am

    God bless and help us!

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  5. Judy - April 3, 2017 12:02 pm

    Yes and our National Anthem still brings chills and tears to this old lady!

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  6. Kristen Johnson - April 3, 2017 12:43 pm

    Love everything you write and share. Grateful to an old classmate who shared​ your site. I get it by email each morning and truly look forward to it. Blessings to you!

    Reply
  7. James Godwin - April 3, 2017 12:44 pm

    I like being teary eyed once in a while. And when it’s about flags, country and old veterans it’s even better.

    When we folded the flag back in my day we were told that that if any part of that flag touched the ground it would have to be burned. I think that’s in the official rules for the handling of the Stars and Stripes.

    Patriotism is a good thing, it should be practiced in our schools. Kids should be able to save their dimes to buy a War Bond. They should be asked to save flattened tin cans and newspapers for the war effort. They should be asked to make Sacrifices for the sake of our country.
    All of that, plus a daily prayer sure would help to build character in our kids.

    Mama’s and Papa’s can’t do it all. A loving, patriotic and praying Teacher sure would help.

    Thanks Sean

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  8. Peggy Black - April 3, 2017 12:55 pm

    All I can say is “Amen!”

    Reply
  9. Trish - April 3, 2017 12:56 pm

    When I was about 18, my Uncle had a case made for the flag that draped my Grandfather’s coffin as well as a case for all his medals as a present for my Granny. Pa was a WWII D-Day survivor who passed before I was born and I only know through stories. I don’t know where the flag was stored, but that day me and Mama folded it up in the front yard and put it in the case. Both of us crying, when we turned around so was everyone else.

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  10. Cherryl Shiver - April 3, 2017 12:58 pm

    I did not think it was possible, I admire you even more……yeah that’s what this Army Brat has to say this morning.

    The maddest I ever saw my Daddy was one morning when we were coming home from the chapel and some little kids were playing outside with a flag, all wrapped up in it rolling around on the ground….

    He turned that 64 Chevy around went and took the flag away from the children, he and two little boys folded the flag, and then,…he and the children walked over to their duplex. My Daddy knocked on the door, him and some other man stepped to the side, my Daddy was real red in the face, the other man was very pale, oh, my Daddy was a Top, 1st Sgt. 6ft4in about 250 lbs…..then he handed the man the flag.

    When he got back in the car, I started to say something, my Momma said,…Not now baby,….never spoken of again.

    What a man…

    Reply
  11. Bobbie - April 3, 2017 1:54 pm

    Thank you so much for expressing what most of us can’t put into words.
    I look so forward to your posts, each and every day!

    Reply
  12. Laura Young - April 3, 2017 2:36 pm

    I wonder if tears weigh enough to contribute to weight loss. If so I should be well on my way to that 10 pound weight loss goal. Man, you stir my emotions. I am like Cherryl Shiver’s daddy- I get mad when someone mishandles the flag. My Daddy was a WWII Navy Seabee and you best not mess with him about the flag. I cannot get through the Nationsl Anthem or God Bless America without tears. I came home from vacation last Friday to find that a storm had snapped the holder for the flag that flies proudly near my home. The flag was in the dirt, all muddy and still damp. I noticed fraying at the edge – I cried. I have the flag waiting in my garage for a day I can burn it. It will be treated with respect that day and another flag will be waving in its old place. And maybe the tears will stay at bay😍

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  13. Nancy - April 3, 2017 2:53 pm

    A piece of fabric woven with hope for freedom and justice, courage, dreams, pride, the blood of heroes and patriots …. so many emotions. As you said, our flag is us. Thank you, Sean. You’re a national treasure, and I’m grateful for every contribution.

    Reply
  14. Cindy Simmons - April 3, 2017 2:55 pm

    This past weekend in Gulfport, we had a Bicentennial celebration on the grounds of the old washed out Veterans site, beautiful place even tho Katrina took it toll. Everyone was taking selfies, pictures of folks and bands, but I took one of old glory waving in the cool Southern breeze .
    Love your stories!

    Reply
  15. Sam Hunneman - April 3, 2017 3:20 pm

    Peeling potatoes, freckled faces, salutes with feeling…. love your sense of humor and your crystalline images, Sean.

    Reply
  16. Catherine Weed - April 3, 2017 3:27 pm

    Yep! I laughed out loud. But I also feel that tug in my heart when I salute our flag!

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  17. Susie Munz - April 3, 2017 5:14 pm

    It’s a beautiful flag! I remember how impressive it was to see American flags flying everywhere after 9/11. What a show of patriotism it was in a dark time in our history. It saddens me now, when I see people refuse to show pride in our flag and country. Where did all that patriotism go??? How quickly we forget!

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  18. Terri Rosene - April 3, 2017 9:03 pm

    Really enjoying your insights-funny, heartwarming and some striking a deep core of Southern truth-thank you!

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  19. Meg - April 4, 2017 4:39 pm

    I love this! That grand flag waving with the sun behind it gets me every time.

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  20. Kay Keel - April 5, 2017 2:41 pm

    Beautiful!

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  21. Anna Ehrhardt - April 8, 2017 1:54 pm

    Proud to be an American. Proud of our Flag and our men, women, and dogs serving in our arm forces to keep us safe.

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  22. Deanna J - June 5, 2017 1:43 pm

    I am PROUD to be an American! Thank you!

    Reply
  23. Bill Heaton - June 5, 2017 6:50 pm

    Dang, my eyes started sweating. Old Glory MEANS something. Thanks for the blog – from a USN Submariner, 1980-1986, IC1 (SS). God. Bless. America.

    Reply
  24. Ben Smith - June 6, 2017 1:17 pm

    Awesome. I wish that all Americans felt the same and deep down in my soul I know me and my family does.

    Reply
  25. E.Huntley - August 30, 2017 8:10 pm

    Loved this. I have the flag that was folded and handed to my mom when my dad, a vet of Korean war, was laid to rest. When she passed, I proudly & lovingly accepted responsibility for its care.
    To this day, I tear up when I hear taps, and the memory of my dad’s service, an many others like him.
    Thank you!

    Reply

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