Old Glory

I was a Scout once, it’s a brotherhood. Also, I am pretty good with a campfire.

The flag flies above the hardware store. There isn’t much of a breeze today. It moves with each gust, then becomes slack.

Flags hang from all sorts of places. They adorn bank buildings, supermarkets, schools, Kmarts, gas stations, beauty salons, auto shops, and libraries. There’s one on my front porch, too. I walk past it every day.

At the entrance to the hardware store, just beneath the flagpole, are Boy Scouts. I don’t exactly know what they’re doing. When I pass they look like they’re busy hard-selling a woman who’s buying some hanging ferns.

I walk through the store and get what I need—some screws, a replacement electrical breaker, and a half-inch drill bit. Then I check out.

My cashier wears a lapel pin on her vest that is a miniature American flag. Another pin bears the Army logo. Another is a mini POW/MIA flag.

“I like your pins,” I tell her.

“Thanks.”

“Military?”

“I just got outta the Army. I miss it. I wish I woulda stayed in. It’s hard going back to this kinda life.”

She spent her formative years in the service, you could say. As a child, she knew she wanted to make it a career, ever since the first time she saw her father wear his dress-blues.

She was born on a military base. She was raised hearing the national anthem once per day over a loudspeaker. Her brother is Army. Her father is a veteran.

I thank her, and I tell her to thank her brother and father for me.

I step outside. The Boy Scouts ask if I need help to my truck. I don’t have anything but the one bag.

Then again, I write a column for a living. I’m always looking for things to write about. I hand them the bag.

One carries it. One follows.

I ask what they are raising money for. I am ready to take out my wallet and contribute to a good cause.

I was a Scout once, it’s a brotherhood. Also, I am pretty good with a campfire.

But the boys tell me they aren’t raising money, they just want to help.

“Aren’t you trying to earn a merit badge?” I ask.

They shake their heads. “No sir, we’re here with our dad, just being helpful.”

Another says, “Mostly, we just lift heavy things for old people who can’t.”

I try to donate to them. They almost gag. Accepting money for kindness is against a Scout’s honor.

“No sir,” says one. “We couldn’t take that.”

We shake hands. I thank them for helping an old man.

Then I drive through town and I notice more than I usually do. I see a man in a motorized wheelchair, rolling along the side of the road. His cap is dark blue, with a battleship on the front.

I see a building in the distance with an eagle painted on the side.

I see little flags in the yard of a business that sells used furniture.

I see bumper stickers with the Stars and Stripes, too many to count.

My grandfather gave his entire youth to the service of country, and his adulthood. My uncles saw Vietnam. My mother was born on a military base.

It all reminds me of a few nights ago, in Atlanta. I attended a baseball game. When we sang the national anthem, a swarm of people took the field. They were carrying a rolled-up flag the way firemen carry long fire hoses. The biggest flag I’ve ever seen. They unfurled it. The thing stretched from right field to left field, and over the pitcher’s mound.

When we sang “O say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave…” they started waving Old Glory. It moved like a river, swelling and falling.

And 41,000 people roared.

The man next to me saluted throughout the song, he sang with a loud voice. He was young. He had a tattoo on his forearm that bore the seal of the United States Marines. He had stiff posture. A hard face. A wild black beard. He cried.

And when a B-52 bomber flew over the stadium, shredding the sky in half, so did I.

After the anthem, I shook the young man’s hand. I said, “Thank you for all you’ve done for us.”

He seemed glad that I said it. He wiped moisture from his eyes and said, “I’d do it all over again, buddy.”

It goes unnoticed sometimes, but it is always there. It’s displayed on the roofs of municipal buildings, churchyards, hardware stores, and on the right sleeves of adolescent Boy Scouts everywhere.

Each front porch on my street has one. Yours probably does, too. The flag hanging beside my own door has been there a long time. And it always will be.

I just thought I’d tell you why.

40 comments

  1. Nell Thomas - April 5, 2019 8:30 am

    A great story to wake up to this morning. I have had “Old Glory” on my mind a lot lately.
    If you ever come through Meridian, Ms. on I- 20 headed West, you will see one of the most beautiful sights around- “Old Glory” will be waving at you from high above on Mt. Barton. It is even more breathtaking at night.
    I went with a cousin the other day to get pictures of her- Glory- high above the multi shades of green- that comes with a new Spring.
    The wind and Glory had taken a break. Well deserved. She was hugging against her pole. I waited a few minutes. Then suddenly the wind picked up and she put on a show for our cameras. I wanted to think she did that just for us.
    I had to stop and wipe a few tears before I could capture her next performance.
    God bless her and our USA.

    Reply
  2. Nell Thomas - April 5, 2019 8:34 am

    P.S. She will wave at you coming from any direction.

    Reply
  3. MarineCorpsVet - April 5, 2019 8:43 am

    Then there are some of our own (scum) that are trying to downplay how great this country really is.

    Reply
  4. Steven P Bailey - April 5, 2019 9:40 am

    Good Stuff….

    Reply
  5. Cathi - April 5, 2019 10:06 am

    Yes, I am old now but the sight of a flag & hearing the national anthem has always brought me to tears. Usually the ugly cry. And goosebumps.
    This has been true since childhood. And I used to apologize but no longer. Age has its privileges and that’s one I’m gonna keep exploiting. God bless the USA!

    Reply
  6. Jean - April 5, 2019 10:27 am

    The sight of the big flag…the Star Spangled Banner…and a fly over by the planes brings me to tears every time. I remember the morning after 9/11 coming by the small park in my town and a the huge American Flag was flying proudly. It was a moment of pride and comfort! God bless America!

    Reply
  7. Elizabeth - April 5, 2019 10:28 am

    So glad to hear the love of old Glory still exists. I cry every time I hear our national anthem too. Heck, I’m crying just reading about old Glory. I wish more people understood the sacrifices people have made for her and though not perfect, she is by far the most beautiful flag that flies because of all she flies for. Thank you Sean.

    Reply
  8. Lucy - April 5, 2019 10:38 am

    You are so right!

    Thank you for writing what is real!

    Reply
  9. Carolyn from Georgia - April 5, 2019 10:44 am

    Yes its awesome at games when they roll out the flag like that & the figher jets fly over!! Seen it many times at Buffalo Bills games! How about Timothy Miller at the Braves game singing “God Bless America” at the 7th inning stretch!!! He is amazing!!! Go Braves!

    Reply
    • Rich from Florida - April 5, 2019 1:17 pm

      Go Bills!

      Reply
  10. Phillip Saunders. - April 5, 2019 11:34 am

    Amen, Bro. AY-MEN! My wife’s dad was a POW in Stalag 17B for almost two years. I have friends who were wounded in Vietnam and cousins who served there and in the Korean War. Keep saluting the flag and thanking those vets. They all deserve it.

    Reply
  11. dlpedit - April 5, 2019 11:46 am

    Long may it wave!

    Reply
  12. Brenda McLaine - April 5, 2019 12:14 pm

    Loved this and you. My husband and son were military. My husband passed away in Jan. and I have a folded flag in memory of him and his service. It will pass to my son when I die.

    Reply
  13. Amy - April 5, 2019 12:28 pm

    Great article today, well they’re all great IMHO, I really needed reminding today.

    Reply
  14. Connie Havard Ryland - April 5, 2019 12:36 pm

    Great read today Sean. Glad to know I’m not the only one who tears up when I hear the National anthem, or that gets a lump in my throat saying the Pledge. There have been men in my family in the military as far back as the Civil War and a couple of women. I’m proud of that. Politicians aside, I still wouldn’t want to live in any other country. I love this place, warts and all. Love and hugs.

    Reply
  15. Terri C Boykin - April 5, 2019 12:37 pm

    ❤️

    Reply
  16. Joy Davis - April 5, 2019 12:38 pm

    “All gave some, some gave all”. Thank you for this article. We all need to he reminded every day of the sacrifices and how fortunate we are!

    Reply
  17. Naomi - April 5, 2019 12:48 pm

    My husband is a retired AF vet. He joined the Georgia Air National Guard when he was 17, was shipped to California and then to Japan during the Korean War. He spent 42 years in the AF, ANG, and Reserve, retiring as a Lt Col. We have a grandson who is career military and is on his 5th or 6th deployment to somewhere in the Middle East.

    Reply
  18. Jan - April 5, 2019 12:55 pm

    Your words brought me to tears … again! We live in a very special place. I only wish that it felt that special to everyone who lives here…

    Reply
  19. Jess in Athens, GA - April 5, 2019 12:56 pm

    Sean, I served twenty-six years in the Army and there’s nothing like standing at attention in a formation of fellow soldiers and hearing the National Anthem. As I neared retirement I savored each time I heard the Anthem because I knew I would only be in uniform for a few more years. I loved my time in the Army….not every single day, mind you. But it was a wonderful, exciting life and I’d do all over again, buddy.

    Reply
  20. Dianne - April 5, 2019 12:56 pm

    I always tear up when I’m at a ball game and hear the National Anthem, and especially so when I’m at an Auburn football game. My family has served in the military in this country going back to the Civil War. I always try to thank those I see in uniform for their service to this country………it is truly appreciated!

    Reply
  21. Luis - April 5, 2019 1:08 pm

    Wow. Thank you!

    Reply
  22. Ann - April 5, 2019 1:22 pm

    I love the one in Fort Walton Square that flies so huge you can see it over a mile away. My Mother, when I would take her for a drive when she was too old to take a walk and her memory was gone, always perked up when she recognized “Old Glory” as she loved to call it. She said it was the most beautiful flag in the world. My Daddy put the flag out every morning and took it in every night. He was Army and knew what sacrifices were made over the years so we could have the privilege to see her fly. God bless our soldiers and the families who wait patiently home for them.

    Reply
  23. AC - April 5, 2019 1:24 pm

    You know nothing about the country you live in if you do not love the flag.
    So many have given there lives so we may be free and everyone can do all the stupid thing they do.
    Wish they would love the flag and give thanks to all those who have died and fought for or freedom.

    Reply
  24. Tom Luckett - April 5, 2019 1:27 pm

    Ours also has been there a long time 🇺🇸

    Reply
  25. Keith Gammon - April 5, 2019 1:33 pm

    Beautifully written. The lady around the corner takes her 3 year old great grandson for walks down our street. We have a flag on a tree in our front yard. He stops and salutes every time they pass by. And I cry every time I see that. God bless America.

    Reply
  26. Roy Parker - April 5, 2019 2:21 pm

    Here in Mobile, we have a car dealership on the I-65 service road that flies a HUGE flag on their property. When riding past on a windy day it makes for an amazing sight. I fly a flag on the front of my house. Its getting a little faded and I recently bought a replacement. Its about time to switch them out. God bless America, and you too, Sean. Thanks for the story.

    Reply
  27. Donnie - April 5, 2019 2:40 pm

    Sean, so thoughtful. I, too, will pay more attention. Thank you

    Reply
  28. Edna B. - April 5, 2019 5:10 pm

    I love my flag, especially those great big ones. There’s nothing quite so beautiful as watching the flag wave proudly in the breeze. My family is full of veterans. And yes, there’s a flag hanging over our front door too. Beautiful post today, Sean. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  29. Irene Respess - April 5, 2019 5:52 pm

    I love you Sean. I remember when you played the keyboard at Village and my fear husband strummed his Gibson next to you.

    Reply
  30. Shelton A. - April 5, 2019 8:58 pm

    Thanks for reminders on loving our country instead of the politics of it (which, right now, no one can love).

    Reply
  31. Charlie Leikauf - April 5, 2019 10:19 pm

    Sean, another tear jerker. Hey I have been to all 27 Opening Day games for my Florida / Miami Marlins who just happen to have two World Series Championships which we had the pleasure of attending all the home games.

    We always make sure we are in our seats for the National Anthem for all the games we attend. I can’t help but relate to the misty eyes whenever I hear it.

    I played until I was 18 and coached our four kids and others over about 25 years.

    Thanks for the memories.

    Charlie

    Reply
  32. Jack Darnell - April 6, 2019 12:04 am

    I love this country. I respect it’s flag. My brothers, uncles and cousins served in WWII. i spent my real life in the USMC, USAF, and the USN. The Still wish I had visited the Army and Coasties for a couple years. But everybody must be somewhere. We live in the greatest country that has existed on this planet bar none. And I can tear up hearing out anthem and seeing our flag.
    Thanks my man.Good write.
    Sherry & jack

    Reply
  33. Pat - April 6, 2019 1:01 am

    Awesome!

    Reply
  34. Charaleen Wright - April 6, 2019 2:38 am

    Reply
  35. Judy Broussard - April 7, 2019 1:33 am

    Amen Sean

    Reply
  36. Abbe Laboda - April 9, 2019 2:39 am

    Amen!

    Reply
  37. Judy - April 10, 2019 6:25 pm

    One of your best – again.

    Maybe you should run this, again, on Flag Day. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Mary Ellen Hall - April 11, 2019 2:00 am

      THANK YOU FOR THIS SEAN!! GOD BLESS AMERICA!!🇺🇸

      Reply
  38. Mary Lee - April 11, 2019 7:32 pm

    God bless America and God bless you! 🇺🇸

    Reply

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