Pride in country shows through [Honoring Our Veterans, Aug. 2022]
|The flag and the music|
"Hey, Papa! How come–"
"Just a second, Jeff, okay?"
The singer finished the National Anthem to the applause of the thirty-three thousand fans waiting for the baseball game to start. Jeremy Matthews lowered his hand, muted the audio and turned to his freckle-faced grandson.
"Now then, what did you want to ask me, Jeff?"
"How come you were saluting the TV, Papa?"
The old man considered his answer, then said, "Well, in part, it's what I was raised to do, buddy. Just like we used to put our right hand over our heart when we said the Pledge of Allegiance in school, we all learned to do the same thing for the Star-Spangled Banner, our National Anthem."
"But, it was just the TV and you were saluting. You didn't have your hand over your heart like Dad and I do when we go to a game."
"That's good to hear about you and your dad, Jeff, and you are correct. I've gotten into the habit of standing for the National Anthem, whether I'm actually where it's being played or if it's just on TV or the radio. I was saluting because, a few years before you were born, a law was passed that allowed military veterans and retirees to salute the flag, even if they weren't wearing their uniform. I served in the Army for twenty-one years and I got a lot of practice saluting the flag, so it just seems more natural to show my respect that way and I'm glad I have the choice."
"I guess I understand that." Jeff thought a minute, then asked, "Umm, Papa? It kinda looked like you were crying a little there at the end. Were you sad?"
The pale blue eyes got just a tiny bit shinier.
"No, buddy—well, not really. Folks seem to like to argue about how to honor the flag and what it means when they don't, and that makes me a little sad. Mostly, though, I just get a little emotional sometimes, when I hear the National Anthem or other songs that honor our country. Songs like "Ragged Old Flag" by Johnny Cash or "Proud To Be An American" by Lee Greenwood. You oughta get your dad to play them for you on his computer. I'll tell you what, that Greenwood fella can sing. When your Aunt Chrystal graduated from Army Basic Training, they played it over the auditorium's speaker system. I don't know what made me tear up more - the pride I felt for your aunt or that song."
"Oh, okay. Do you think –"
"Jeff?" called a voice from the hallway. "Jeff? Oh - there you are; I've been looking for you. It's time to get on the road. Hey there, Dad. Jeff isn't bothering you, is he?"
"He's not bothering me at all, Josh. We were just chatting about patriotism and honoring the flag. He's a good boy and he asked some good questions. I suspect you two will have a nice chat, too, all the way home," he said with a smile.