Sunday, June 14, 2009

Commentary: Flag Day -- "Old Glory"


The following commentary was written by deployed U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Clinton Payne, 737th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron.
SOUTHWEST ASIA, June 14, 2009 -- Patriotism, simply defined, is devotion to one's country. In some nations this devotion is expressed more passionately and openly than in others, but loyalty to one's homeland is a natural and common emotion. Such patriotic feeling often lies quietly within the breast of a population and may not have a highly visible expression until times of national tragedy or threat.

For example, America's patriotism sat lightly on the sleeves of a citizenry that had come to feel complacently secure within its borders, but it gained massive public display following the national threat perceived after 9/11.

America's armed forces have always served patriotically and courageously, sacrificing bravery with valor for the very price of freedom. Freedom is never given. It must be taken, protected and preserved for generations. In the struggle for freedom, great deeds have been accomplished, lives have been given and honor has been sustained. Nothing speaks greater to the tradition of the United States military than flag and drill ceremonies.

As a proud Air Force member, I had numerous opportunities to contribute to the legacy of the red, white, and blue Star Spangled Banner. From various human remains, or HR, ceremonies on a C-130 Hercules and C-5 Galaxy, to my almost two years serving on the Travis Air Force Base, Calif., Honor Guard, I have always ensured the time honored tradition was carried out to the fullest of my ability.

My times with the honor guard were some of the greatest in my career. One thing is evident, each ceremony hit home in a different way. The HR ceremonies done throughout the AOR touch base on the reality of war and the fortitude these service members, civilians and even foreign nationals fighting for the same end result have contributed. These particular individuals have made the ultimate sacrifice, their own life, so those after them can continue to flourish freely.

With the honor guard, these funeral ceremonies took in account the members who survived the preceding wars. These are the individuals whom allow you and me to walk freely down the streets. I believe they deserve the best honor and dignity we can give them. Each funeral was tough in its own way. Most who receive the flag of the deceased were young children or young adults. Knowing these persons would be growing up without the individuals recently laid to rest was disturbing and tearful at times, but knowing the honor behind the passing of the flag was an emotional event. Military bearing definitely plays a big role in these times.

The U.S. flag is flown at all installations at home and overseas. It is our greatest symbol of patriotism to the country. We fly it proudly and boastfully. We ensure it takes the lead as it should and always will. When remembering the flag, I am reminded for what it stands. Sure the direct symbolism is 50 states represented by the 50 stars and the red and white horizontal stripes symbolizing the original 13 colonies that rebelled against the British and became the first states in the union. It is also a remembrance of those sacrificed before us, those who put forth the blood, sweat and tears to make this great country what it is today. We are a democracy that votes on the people for the people of this nation. Without those who served before you and me, these privileges would never exist. This in my heart is the meaning of "Old Glory."

When encountering a conversation about patriotism with any U.S. military member, I am surely aware some emotions will differ here and there. I guarantee we will all have a strong patriotism to the country, flag, military and civilians making up this nation. These are some of my ideas, thoughts, and personal personality into patriotism.

(Commentary by Staff Sgt. Clinton Payne, 737th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron.)

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