This morning, slightly after first light, i climbed the rough-hewn railroad tie steps up my hill and then up the remaining slope to my flag pole. i lowered the flag, flying at night because it is lit by a solar light, in accordance with U.S. Flag protocol, to half-mast.
At noon, i will repeat my hill ascension to raise my flag until it is two-blocked.
The weather was cloudy and cool on my morning climb. It is predicted to be moving toward “sunny” on the second climb. “May Gray” is transitioning to “June Gloom” with a vengeance this year. We even had a light rain for an hour or so this morning. i like it that way now that i’ve gotten used to summer not really hitting the Southwest corner until July. It seems somehow fitting.
i am not a rah-rah person (unless it comes to Vanderbilt athletics). i prefer quiet observations of significant events rather than large crowds and pompous speakers. There are a number of old veterans like me who will drape themselves in old uniforms if they still fit and other replicas of when they were warriors, and will salute (some improperly) at certain moments as the bands play, the speakers pontificate (or make some unfitting political plea), and the crowd “oohs” and “aahs.” That’s just not my way of memorializing men and women of honor.
i’m not against that kind of demonstration, by the way, as long it is intended to honor the fallen, not some veiled attempt at a political agenda. i think such celebrations are a good thing, just not for me, not anymore.
i’m sure there are quite a few of those we honor today who would shy away from such celebration about them. So i am honoring them my way. i walked up there in the early morning, pulled the lanyard to the proper position, and secured the lanyard to the cleat. i turned and looked upon the Navy ships silhouetted the gray mist and thought of shipmates and those officers and sailors who did not make it to retirement.
This is the ensign…er, flag (ensign is the Navy term i used for almost a quarter of a century) after being lowered to half mast. The ridge in the background is Point Loma.
i turned my gaze northwestward toward the silhouette of Point Loma. i could not see the white stone markers from this distance, or even the Fort Rosecrans cemetery boundaries, just the silhouette of the ridge in the marine layer. But i will know it is there, and i silently thought of those soldiers, sailors, and marines lying there in repose who will later be honored in a red, white, and blue festive, but respectful ceremony with a large crowd. My silent little ceremony is no less of an honor to them. Those men and women deserve both the festive recognition and my quiet reflection.
Last night, Brian Lippe, a retired Navy SEAL, excellent photographer, and good friend, posted his view of the Rosecrans cemetery at twilight. It is even better than my recollection of what the cemetery represents:
The sun coming out midday is also appropriate. At noon when i raise the flag to its normal position, i will know those fallen honorees will be with me as i refocus. Thinking about the symbol representing why they gave their all. You see, that flag is not a person, a political party, a section of our country. We pledge our allegiance to our country. That allegiance must continue.
Military enlisted personnel “…solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
In their commissioning oath, officers “solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.”
It seems we forget those oaths. The oath does not allow for disrespect to the President. We swore to obey his orders. But not because of who he or she is, or what their political bias happens to be. Our military is led by a civilian because that is the way our forefathers designed the best model for a country before or after. We are all in this together. We are not supposed to be divisive. We are all immigrants, even those tribes of people who came long before others. We are not separated any longer as second-tier inhabitants or citizens. We are all citizens. Those men and women lying in those graves didn’t stop because of another citizen’s race, religion, or political leaning. They died for all of them, all of us. They died for our country symbolized by this beautiful flag hanging at half-mast until noon.
When i die, i have arranged to have my ashes put beside my parents’ graves in Wilson County Memorial Gardens. Maureen may follow suit. That is her decision. The small grave markers lie flat in the ground in that section of the cemetery. I hope there is room on the marker to simply note i served my country. That, and knowing i have joined those whom i honor today is enough.
Thanks, this country of America, for being just, and kind, and free, and for honoring those who have served you nobly with the greatest sacrifice.