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Sight of Old Glory still puts a lump in my throat

POSTED: June 8, 2014 1:00 a.m.

All sorts of legends surround the origin of our nation’s flag.

The good news is with a few modifications for new states, the Stars and Stripes has survived for 237 years this week.

The fact the flag has survived the threat of battle is legendary. We have a song about it, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Our nation’s anthem was written by Francis Scott Key as he looked at the flag still waving over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.

I love and respect our flag. When I see it carried by those in uniform as a part of a ceremony, I get a little lump in my throat. I think of those I’ve known who were hurt or killed defending it. I think of all the caskets I have seen with the flag draped over them. A variety of thoughts play back in my mind when I see Old Glory.

We make attempts to honor our flag before events populated by people who could care less. I went to a football game once and watched a drunken guy get sick while the band played the national anthem. It made me sick in a different way.

I prefer to think of the more appropriate ways we honor our flag. I have seen our flag waving with a ship full of sailors pulling into New York harbor. That was a beautiful sight.

While it is sad, I have a great appreciation for the flag flying at half-staff at one of our veterans cemeteries at the time of funerals. There is nothing more beautiful than our flag flying at the Georgia National Cemetery near Canton.

In my current work, I have seen too many young widows clutching a flag just folded from an officer’s casket. While her tears have often brought tears to my eyes, it is nonetheless a beautiful picture of our flag.

I appreciate the faces of our greatest generation, the veterans of World War II, when our flag is displayed. The backs are not as straight and the salute is not as crisp, but the devotion to country is a picture etched in my mind. We are losing so many of them now and it is sad.

There is something special about a young Cub or Boy Scout who is holding a Scout salute across his forehead. You have to believe we are cultivating a new generation of young leaders who will love and honor our flag for a lifetime.

It is these images and more that compensate for the lack of respect so many people have for our flag. The people who are too drunk, too busy or too self-consumed to pay a moment of honor as our flag is being raised or is passing in review irritate me. But those who fought for our country also gave them the right to do so.

The same is true for those who hate our flag and would desecrate it. That doesn’t mean I have to like them or their attitude. I don’t and I won’t.

As that great poet of the common man, Merle Haggard, once wrote, “If you’re talking down my country, Hoss, you’re walking on the fightin’ side of me.”

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on


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