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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pride and shame

I once served in the Honor Guard for the 501st Tactical Missile Wing. This was a unit based at the famous Greenham Common in Britain. Our duty was to deliver 96 nuclear cruise missiles to Russia in the event the Cold War became hot.

It didn’t.

One day, the base was called to a briefing to discuss the end of the mission – and a new beginning without the threat of the Soviet Union. There were maybe a thousand people filling a massive building. The Honor Guard had been asked to bring the room to attention. That task was probably more appropriate for the Master Sergeant in charge of the Guard – but he passed it to me. I guess I had a loud mouth. I was a little nervous. The sound from the room was deafening – people talking and laughing and at first, no one noticed as I walked down the center of the room, posted, and carried out the order.

In a split second, everything stopped and everyone came to attention. I did an about-face and walked out – and the U.S. and RAF Commanders came in.

I remember a feeling of pride. We had accomplished an amazing mission. In some small way at least, the threat of our mobile system may have forced the hand and hastened the collapse of the Communist government. And there were other “moments” during the final years of the 501st: There was Eisenhower Day, when I marched the American Flag in a color guard, down the center of Newbury. I had bought new boots for this specific day – straight out of the box and completely unblemished, they were peeling the back of my heels off my feet and filling with blood. I was aware of the situation, but much more aware of the old British men in black suits, lining the streets as we passed, their chests decorated with medals from a long-ago war, where we, the Americans came to the assistance of Britain. Together, our countries had won a war, which saved a world. My color guard performed perfectly that afternoon.

“Pride” is too small a word to cover such a feeling on a day like that.

So to hear of Associations in America, taking veterans to court for flying U.S. flags in their front yard – it infuriates me. A good writer should be objective and impartial. I am afraid, today, I cannot be a good writer.

Today I read about a 77-year-old veteran of Vietnam, who has been told by the homeowner association that the U.S. flag flying in his front yard, violates the rules of the property. This is occurring right now in Macedonia, Ohio. Apparently, there are not enough patriots there in that town to stomp mudholes in the idiots that make up the Association’s board.

Yesterday I read about another Homeowner’s Association in Evans, Georgia, which withdrew approval for a house to be built for a seriously wounded veteran to be erected by the national organization “Homes for our Troops." The house, which was to be specially adapted for SFC Sean Gittens was initially blocked because the association wanted a second story, as well as 700 square feet added to the plan. SFC Gittens was left paralyzed and unable to speak as a result of an aneurism linked to traumatic brain injury resulting from multiple concussive traumas during his Iraq service from April 2007 to April 2008.

As of June 24th, however, after continued heat, the Association in the way of Gittens’  new home, folded under the pressure, asking for more shutters and other architectural changes, but not the additional floor space. The family hasn’t yet responded back.

In absolute fury over both these situations, I can only say that it is precisely these sorts of things, which diminish all of us. Are some silly neighborhood rules worth more than the history and majesty of the U.S. Flag? Are these effete snobs, which make up these organizations, worth even one man such as SFC Gittens? Where were they – and what were they doing, when Gittens was serving the country?

What a source of pride – America.

What a source of shame.

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