Respecting Old Glory spans generations
On Memorial Day, I had the privilege of chauffeuring a friend of mine from The Greatest Generation in my 1945 Willys Jeep.
Pancho Mauricio, a Filipino American who is 101, survived the Bataan Death March, a horrible forced march by the Japanese of 76,000 prisoners of war in the Philippines in 1942. Between 5,000-18,000 Filipino and 500-650 American deaths occurred during the march which was later judged a Japanese war crime by an Allied military commission.
During our parade in Cape Coral, Fla., Pancho, who served as grand marshal, waved a small American flag to acknowledge the crowd. At the end of the route, Pancho handed me the flag — which I propped against the side of a building while helping him climb out of the jeep.
I was immediately reminded and corrected by a veteran nearby that the flag was touching the ground. For this lapse of flag etiquette, I quickly apologized.
Federal law stipulates in the Flag Code states: “When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms.”
A similar mistake was made by Boston Marathon officials during an awards ceremony honoring Daniel Romanchuk, who set a new record for an American in the men’s wheelchair race. Romanchuk had the flag draped over his shoulders until an award presenter removed it and placed it on the floor for the ceremony.
Marathon organizers pledged the mistake would not happen again.
President Trump explained in his Flag Day proclamation last week how the flag helps us to never forget the values of our Republic, and the valor of the men and women in uniform who have defended it.
“When we look at the red, white, and blue, we are filled with the same spirit of patriotism that stirred Francis Scott Key to pen the “Star Spangled Banner” during the withering bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1812,” Trump stated.
“We are reminded of the blood spilled across generations to safeguard liberty. We are prompted to reflect with pride on the purity and righteousness of our cause — the same pride that swelled in the hearts of our boys as they took the beaches of Normandy, and as they raised the flag on Iwo Jima. And we are strengthened in our resolve to pursue justice and safeguard the rule of law, so that freedom can march on.”
In recent years, pro football quarterback and political activist Colin Kaepernick made headlines by kneeling in protest during the national anthem. In an earlier generation, however, professional baseball player Rick Monday reacted differently when confronted by a flag protest.
On April 25, 1976, America’s bicentennial year, the Chicago Cubs were playing the Dodgers in Los Angeles when, at the start of the bottom of the 4th inning, two protesters ran into left-center field and after unfurling the flag as if it was a picnic blanket, knelt beside it.
Monday, who was playing center field, sprinted for the two and just as they were about to put a lighted match to the flag, scooped it up, ran through the infield and handed it to a player in the LA dugout. Police arrested the two.
When Monday came to bat in the next half-inning, he got a standing ovation from the crowd. The stadium message board posted: “RICK MONDAY... YOU MADE A GREAT PLAY...”
Monday, who served a six-year commitment with the Marine Corps Reserve as part of his ROTC obligation after leaving Arizona State, later explained that he had been to too many veterans’ hospitals and seen too many broken bodies of guys who tried to protect our freedoms.
Thirty two years later, Monday was presented with an American flag flown over Valley Forge National Historical Park in honor of his Los Angeles flag rescue. Through the years, he has been offered up to $1 million to sell the flag he grabbed from protesters that day in Dodger Stadium.
He has declined all offers.
By JIM ZBICK | firstname.lastname@example.org