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Our flag is still the same flag

This July 4 has been unusual in so many ways. COVID-19 is causing unbelievable hardship medically and economically.

We must take a deep hard look at ourselves and our racist tendencies and look for creative ways to treat each other with respect while at the same time strengthening the support of our law enforcement community.

We are Americans with a proud heritage and history. The following essay, “Remember Me,” was printed years ago, author unknown. My interview was with a friend and former employer, Tom Riddle who died several years ago. My prayer is for this interview and essay to remind us that despite our disagreements and issues, we still have a lot to be thankful for and proud of as Americans.

Some people call me Old Glory, others call me the Star-Spangled Banner,

but whatever they call me, I am your flag, the flag of the United States of America.

Something has been bothering me, so I thought I might talk it over with you.

When you walk inside Tom Riddle’s automobile dealership you wonder if you are entering a showroom or a museum. Two stories of glass highlight automobiles inside. Beside each car is an elaborate booth complete with story boards and a computer so any question can easily be answered.

But it is the front wall that really captures your attention.

I remember some time ago people lined up on both sides of the street to watch the parade and naturally, I was always there proudly waving in the breeze.

When your daddy saw me coming, he immediately removed his hat and placed it over his heart. Remember? And you, I remember you standing there straight as a soldier.

You didn’t have a hat, but you were giving the right salute.

There is a two-story American flag on the wall that seems to wave in the breeze. Within and below the familiar stars and stripes are the words to the essay: “Remember Me?” Most businesses display a flag, but ‘Wow!’ not like this.

Remember your little sister?

Not to be outdone, she was saluting the same as you, with her hand over her heart.

Remember? What happened? I’m still the same old flag.

Oh, I have added a few more stars since you were a boy

and a lot more blood has been shed since those parades of long ago.

“I’m proud to live here and I’m proud of what we stand for as Americans,” said Riddle, owner of the automobile dealership and designer of the wall.

“I grew up in rural North Carolina. My family was poor, but we were determined to live right and work hard. This country provided me the freedom and the opportunity to succeed and even influence others. Our business was one of the first to publish a mission statement illustrating the steps we are willing to take so that we treat our customers with respect and dignity. As a business leader I have the opportunity to encourage others to reach beyond their comfort zone, stretch their imaginations and achieve the impossible.”

Then he added with emphasis: “What a great opportunity we have as Americans!”

But I don’t feel as proud as I used to.

When I come down your street, you just stand there with your hands in your pockets.

I may get a small glance but then you look away.

I see the children running around and shouting.

They don’t seem to know who I am.

I saw one man take off his hat and look around.

He didn’t see anybody else with his hat off so he quickly put his back on.

Tom continued: “It bothers me to live in a country that offers so much, yet so few seem to really appreciate the benefits. I am proud to call myself an American and I am especially proud to remember the men and women who sacrificed their lives for the freedom I enjoy. This wall is my tribute to them.”

Is it a sin to be patriotic anymore? Have you forgotten what I stand for and where I’ve been?

“Anzio, Normandy, Omaha Beach, Guadalcanal, Korea, Vietnam, The Persian Gulf (Desert Storm), Terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, the USS Cole, most recently for the second time on September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Center, New York City, The Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a hijacked aircraft crash outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Afghanistan, Iraq.”

“September 11, 2001,” said Mr. Riddle, “serves as a reminder that life and freedom are precious gifts from God never to be abused or taken for granted. I am grateful for what God has given. I have been blessed with a wonderful family; creative and hard-working employees and I live in a country which has given me the opportunity to make a difference in other people’s lives. God bless America!”

Take a look at the memorial honor rolls some time.

Look at the names of those who never came back in order to keep this Republic free.

‘One nation under God.’

When you salute me, you are actually saluting them.

Well, it won’t be long until I’ll be coming down your street again.

So, when you see me, stand straight, place your right hand over your heart.

I’ll salute you waving back. And I’ll know you remembered.

REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at larrydavies@vaumc.org.