My wife Judy and I like to entertain people at our home. We live in an area where people typically need directions to our house. Invariably, whenever we give people the directions, it always ends with “….the house with the American flag on it.”
The fact that flying an American flag easily differentiates me from everyone on my block is disturbing in and of itself as we approach one of the weekends where flying an American flag is actually chic: Memorial Day weekend.
In preparation for this column, just to sorta see how many flags were flying around the neighborhood, I found on average about 1 in 8 were flying flags the Wednesday before this column appeared. I’m sure it will be more by Friday or at least Monday, Memorial Day itself.
Remember the days and weeks that followed 9/11? You almost got called out for not having some sort of American flag on your car/home/person at that time. The patriotism and flag-waving fervor that existed then was at an all-time high. My god, they were selling “Patriot Packs” of flags for your car, home and office! “Be more patriotic than your co-workers! Show your neighbors how much you love your country! Buy the Patriot Pack now!”
I’m not trying to imply we need to wrap ourselves in the American flag like Rocky Balboa or anything, but the fact that it’s only at July 4th and Memorial Day and Veterans Day that we feel compelled to show our patriotism bothers me.
And it’s not just the general American public that has slowly put their collective attention to the flag’s meaning on the back burner. The American media, for the most part, almost never writes about our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. When the “coalition” first invaded Iraq with the “Shock and Awe” campaign, certainly our media’s attention was captured. It was in the months after 9/11, and it was felt that our trillion dollar technology and massive man-power would make short work of the Iraqis, just as it did during Desert Storm.
Well, as history has shown the past several years, it has not been that easy. Invading Baghdad and the rest of Iraq was a far different animal than driving them out of Kuwait in 1991. It has been a costly and brutal war that has lasted far longer than just about everyone thought it would, with the arena’s emphasis shifting from Iraq to Afghanistan over the past 18 months or so.
I guess I’m especially familiar with this on a personal level due to the fact that my son-in-law, Army Sgt. David Santell, is currently serving his third tour overseas. His first two tours were in Iraq. He currently is in Afghanistan. My step-daughter (and David’s wife) Larissa lives with his absence hour-to-hour, day-to-day, text-to-text, phone call-to-phone call. She’s only gotten a couple of weeks with him home for “R and R” with him coming home for good in the late fall of this year.
David’s a great guy: gregarious, fun-loving, intelligent, a lot more mature than his age for sure. Our family loves him very much and is eager for him to come home. It can’t come soon enough. We just want him out of harm’s way. We are so proud of his duty to our country, but we want him home. I guess we don’t feel any differently than anybody who has family wearing the uniform in Afghanistan or Iraq. I guess we aren’t any different than the family of Marine LCPL Richard Penny were before they were given word that Richard was killed in action in Afghanistan a few weeks ago.
Richard was from our area. You probably heard about it on my show and on the TV stations in our area. But just as importantly to me is that, ironically, Richard knew David and was very good friends with Larissa. His death was a serious blow to our community, and an unbearable loss for Richard’s friends and family, of which my step-daughter proudly was, and is.
Richard was beloved by all who knew him well, and his death served as another reminder that the war is not just in the mountains of Kabul, or the sands of Tikrit. It is in every neighborhood in our country where spouses, mothers, fathers, children and all family members and friends pray daily for the safe return for their brave warriors to their homes.
It’s just tragic that it takes the death of someone like Richard to appreciate what our brave warriors are doing with their lives. This weekend, lets try and remember not just those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the American way of life, but let’s also remember to be so grateful for those in harms way wearing uniform TODAY. If we can do that with the simple gesture of flying the American flag outside our homes, that’s probably not too much to ask. And not just when the calendar tells us to.
Jon Williams is a contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. He also hosts “The Jon Williams Show” mornings on Clear Channel’s 93.3 The Eagle and has lived in Northwest Arkansas for 20 years. Jon’s world revolves around his son Jack and wife Judy, and invites you to join the Loyal and Royal Army of his listeners on Facebook. For more of Jon’s contributions, visit his author page.