Seven riflemen fired at the sky. A lone trumpet played “Taps.” If there was a dry eye in the county, it was made of glass.

His funeral was in the dead of summer. It was graveside. Early morning. Muggy.

His skin looked powder-white, his face wore an artificial smile. Red, white, and blue draped over his casket.

They did him up good.

Seven riflemen fired at the sky. A lone trumpet played “Taps.” If there was a dry eye in the county, it was made of glass.

Once, I went to a ball game with him. I was a boy. The organ played “The Star Spangled Banner.”

He stood, saluted, and sang in a voice that was part tenor, part Andy Griffith.

I asked why he sang so loud.

“‘Cause,” he said. “That’s one hell of a flag flying up there.”

I asked where they shot him during the War.

He lifted his arm and pointed to his armpit. “Already showed you this a hundred times,” he said.

Make that one hundred and one.

He grew up on a dirt farm. He was as tough as the callouses on his hands. He was a musician.

As a young man, he sang on a Thursday-evening gospel radio hour, flatpicking a guitar in a one-room radioshack.

He fell in love. She came from a poor family. They married before he shipped to Europe.

The night before their wedding, they slept in the same bed—on top the covers, with their clothes on.

“He was nothing if not decent,” was once said of him.

But he was more than decent. He was ten-foot tall. His heart was purple, his Case knife was sharp, his fishing rods were bamboo. He listened to the Opry, and Hit Parade. He believed in solid cars, and pretty music.

I liked to watch him play mandolin.

“Learned to play this thing in Northern Italy,” he said. “During the War.”

He could pick “Turkey in the Straw,” or “Wayfaring Stranger” at tempos that would break your neck.

Once, I saw him on the front porch of his single-wide, picking. He was old, his hands were liver-spotted. He moved his fingers so fast they looked blurry.

“How’d you learn to do that?” I asked.

He didn’t answer. Instead, he played “Amazing Grace.” He sang, but stopped midway through the third verse. He wiped his eye, but did not cry.

“Reckon that’s enough music for one day,” he said.

When the call came, my mother collapsed at the kitchen table. She buried her face in her hands.

“He’s really gone,” she said. “I can’t believe Daddy’s gone.”

His funeral was small—men born on dirt farms don’t exactly have big memorials.

But he was American, by God. And the uniformed men folded the colors which laid over his casket. A man passed the triangular-shaped flag to my mother.

“Ma’am, on behalf of the President of the United States…” the man began.

I can’t remember the rest.

What I do remember is that Granddaddy was right when he said it.

It is one hell of a flag.

And he certainly would’ve known. He helped pay for it.


  1. Sharon - May 29, 2017 1:29 pm

    God bless America.

  2. Arlene - May 29, 2017 1:32 pm

    The apple did not fall far….you are your grandfather’s grandson. God bless America, and thank you for sharing your grandfather with us today. Honored to meet him….

  3. Noah - May 29, 2017 1:36 pm

    Perfect message on this day of remembrance. Thanks for sharing another great story with us.

  4. Sara Shepherd - May 29, 2017 1:51 pm

    Love your blog and your “down to earth” style. I feel it is pure Americana or, at least, what it should be. America needs to remember these times and our history and stop trying to erase or change it.
    God bless the men and their families who died to preserve our freedoms. God bless America! Thank you for your perspective on life!

  5. Sandi - May 29, 2017 1:52 pm

    Thank-you to all who served and sacrificed. May we never forget that freedom is not free.

  6. David DeVane - May 29, 2017 1:56 pm

    Reminded me of my father. As a 17 yr old from Alabama he raised his hand and became a member of Tom Brokaw’s greatest generation serving in the Army during WWII. A lion of a man, gone but not forgotten.

  7. Steve Welch - May 29, 2017 2:42 pm

    Thank you Sean for remembering that simple words put together correctly can move mounains. I enjoy your daily posts, and quite frankly, have cried more than once reading your work. Thanks for putting your heart out for public view every day. It is a good one.

  8. Sam Hunneman - May 29, 2017 2:54 pm

    Lest we forget. Thanks, Sean

  9. Patricia Gibson - May 29, 2017 3:00 pm

    Thank you for that wonderful memory!

  10. Jack Quanstrum - May 29, 2017 3:01 pm

    Sean, that story put goose bumps all over me. Well written and down the heart of the matter. I am proud to be an American, but after this story I am even more proud, realizing there are countless men and women like your granddaddy who payed the price for what we enjoy today. Our daily freedom. But even more important is they all did what they did from deep in there heart. They did what was right, Good and what is now acknowledged by me through your writing,. what I now consider sacared. They lived there life in a way that shows us how we should live and what is truly important as we walk this earth . Peace be with you brother!

  11. Mary D. - May 29, 2017 3:29 pm

    Thank you so much for this special post on Memorial Day. I cried because that could have been written about my grandfather who served in WWI. I still have the flag that draped his coffin and treasure it as a reminder of him and service to our country.

  12. Chris Darden - May 29, 2017 4:16 pm

    Love the glass eye line. We need more patriots like that these days.

  13. Danny C Hall - May 29, 2017 4:47 pm

    Good en

  14. Susan in Georgia - May 29, 2017 5:08 pm

    Oh Sean, you out-did yourself on this one. Grabbed me from the beginning and did not let go ’til the last word. Thank you, again, for sharing your God-given talent for writing. Wait, not just writing ~ for creating or painting scenes in our minds as your sentences unfold before our eyes.

  15. George - May 29, 2017 6:01 pm

    God Bless America!

  16. Carolyn - May 29, 2017 6:10 pm

    Felt like I should have stood up as I read this.

  17. Jean Moseley - May 29, 2017 9:16 pm

    That is just beautiful. I was in the grocery store this afternoon and I caught a lady looking at me and smiling. She said, “you’re looking very patriotic today, even down to your red shoes”. She was referring to my American Flag shawl I was wearing with red high heels to match. I simply told her, “I try”. If she’s around on the 4th of July, she’ll see me wearing pretty much that same outfit. God Bless America!

  18. Michael - May 29, 2017 9:34 pm

    God bless you and this is coming from a guy whose prayers don’t go higher than the ceiling. Thank you for your your writing’s, they make me want to believe there are still good people in this world.

  19. Anne Trawick - May 29, 2017 9:55 pm

    Oh, heck. Tears again.

    • Michael - May 29, 2017 10:05 pm

      I know right. Sometimes I think he is just trying to make us cry.

  20. Buck Godwin - May 29, 2017 10:49 pm

    All I can say is,
    God bless you Sean.

  21. Jeannie - May 29, 2017 11:17 pm

    God Bless the USA and all the men/women who fight for our freedoms. You had a wonderful Grandfather, Sean and so did I. We were and are truly blessed.

  22. Michael Bishop - May 30, 2017 1:45 am

    We’re running out of WWII veterans, each one’s loss is like the burning of a library, except that sometimes their family members, friends, or neighbors can turn and recite from some of those vividly remembered pages. Thanks for saving these pages from your wife’s father’s library from those steadily mounding ashes.

  23. Michael Hawke - May 30, 2017 1:49 am

    The perfect end to our Memorial Day.

  24. Alicia McDaniel - May 30, 2017 2:45 am

    AMEN. God Bless the men and women who served to keep us free.

  25. Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - May 30, 2017 3:57 am

    I have just discovered you. You are a wonderful writer. I am enjoying finding your emails. Thank you.

  26. Barbara McGinnis - May 30, 2017 1:06 pm

    At the end of every story, I’m really sad to be leaving your company.

  27. Naomi - May 30, 2017 2:06 pm

    Your Grandfather was made of the same “stuff” that the men who built and shaped our country were made of. Integrity! There were 15 kids in our family. I had brothers who served beginning in WWII and 3 in Korea, 2 of those also served in Vietnam, along with another brother and my husband. Another brother served during the Bay of Pigs. Many nieces and nephews have followed suite. All were taught a work ethic by example.
    We worked to build a gazebo this weekend to enjoy in our retirement. We didn’t get finished with the carpentry but our flag was installed after we got the upright support posts in place. The flag is a thing of beauty and indicates the legacy that was left by our forefathers.

  28. Karen - May 30, 2017 2:32 pm

    Your Granddaddy was right, “it is one Hell of a Flag”. I have a Granddaddy like that, fought in WWI and WWII, also a son Marines, fought in Iraq, and a brother, Marines, Vietnam War. Thank you Granddaddy’s, and all those who have fought for our country, for the gift of freedom you gave to us. May our Country always remember those who sacrificed before us. Thank you Sean for your wonderful story about your Granddaddy.

  29. Dolores Fort - May 31, 2017 10:26 pm

    Yes, Sean, he did help pay for it. And so did all of our service personnel who made so many sacrifices. Thank you for sharing this piece of your heart with us!

  30. Annette Bailey - June 2, 2017 10:07 pm

    And one single tear rolled down my face. No…there goes a few more. That was my Dad too. He was special to all six o this children. And he was special to our Mom who he called Samantha Jane even though her name was Claudia! He called her that as a joke from a movie they had seen when they were young. He asked “Samantha Jane” to get his coffee almost every morning unless he was away working on the railroad. He loved our country and he loved old glory. I’m glad he can’t see how the flag is treated now. It would break his heart. Samantha Jane was given one at his funeral. We all sat tall looking at old glory for him. Dad fought in the Navy during WWII and we are proud of him!

  31. Deanna J - July 22, 2017 1:05 pm

    Grandfathers are the best! Thank you !

  32. Donna Schoditsch - July 22, 2017 1:58 pm

    Beautiful, Sean. Thank you, again.

  33. Rebecca - July 22, 2017 2:23 pm

    You did it again Sean! No dry eyes here either!

  34. Jennifer Wells - July 22, 2017 2:40 pm

    My grandfather, my father, my uncles……they were part of helping make that flag also and they would have been proud to know your grandfather. God bless!

  35. Laura - July 22, 2017 3:29 pm

    Thank you for sharing Sean.
    Missing is hard. Hugs and Love to you and your family. May his love continue to bless you all.
    Giving thanks for all men and women in the service as well.

  36. Ben smith - July 22, 2017 4:45 pm

    Awesome. God Bless him and God Bless all the men and women who fought for our freedoms we have day .God Bless America.


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