When I was a child, my father would drag me to the local Veterans’ Day parade. I did not quite understand why we went. I mean, it was not like the Thanksgiving or Christmas parades, or even the Fourth of July. It was just float after float of older men, and some women, wearing uniforms. It did not really interest me. And given the small crowds that attended, it appeared that others shared my sentiment.
The other part of attending these parades was that my father would stand EVERY time a large American flag passed in front of us, and he would place his hand over his heart. I knew that he was a proud World War II Veteran and the son of a proud World War I Veteran. But did we have to stand each time the Stars and Stripes went by? Wasn’t once enough?
I finally got tired of the up and down, and decided that I would just sit out the remaining flags that would go by. As the next one passed, my father stood, and then looked at me sitting.
He did not chastise me. He did not scold me. He did not yell. He just leaned over and whispered: “Son, if you will not stand for the flag, at least stand for the red in the flag.”
“The red in the flag, Daddy? I don’t understand.”
“Son,” he said, “the red reminds us of the blood that was shed so that our nation can be free. From the time of George Washington, when our country was in danger, brave Americans risked their lives to keep our liberty. You see, I got to come home from the second World War. So many of my friends did not. I stand for their honor, and the honor of all those who gave their lives for our country throughout our history. Will you stand with me and remember them also?”
I meekly stood with my father. I put my hand over my heart. I saw the flag in a whole new way. I still do. I continue to stand when it passes, though many others do not. I choose to honor those who serve, those who have served, and those who gave their last full measure of devotion.
Jesus reminded us, ““Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13).” I am sure that Jesus would also include those willing to lay down their lives for their friends.
If our Veterans were willing to sacrifice for us, then maybe we should seek to honor that selfless service. Will you join me this Veterans’ Day? You can’t miss me. I will be the one standing when each flag goes by, with my hand over my heart, a small tear in my eye, and my father’s words in my ear.
To learn more about how God’s Word is working in the lives of the military community, visit ArmedServicesMinistry.com.
Rev. Art Pace
CH (COL-ret), USA