God bless you for your patriotism and your love of the Red,
White, and Blue. There is not a veteran alive who does not
share your preference for our beloved flag. We put our lives
on the line to insure that our country’s flag would continue
to fly over your State House, and over the capitols of every
state, territory, and possession of the greatest country on
earth. We take much comfort from the fact that our sacrifices
have not been in vain and are further comforted whenever we
see the flag displayed with pride.
Then why do we care so much about the "ugly black flag" as
you call it? It does not fill one with pride to look at it as
does the Stars and Stripes. It does not evoke comfort. Well,
it’s not supposed to, at least not in the way the American
flag does. Its symbols are mixed between WWII and Vietnam.
Surely no NVA or VC ever stood in a WWII prison camp guard
tower. If this flag was simply a symbol of the Vietnam POWs,
it would more properly have been rendered with the American in
a bamboo monkey cage, stuck in the cul-de-sac of an
underground tunnel system.
So what is it about this flag that causes so many to rise
in its defense? For the very fact that it does not bring
comfort. That it will not let us forget our husbands, our
fathers, our sons, brothers, friends, and comrades in arms.
Vietnam is the first war where we had
proof that the enemy held back Americans when the war
ended. We have photos, published by the Vietnamese before the
war ended, showing live prisoners. Prisoners who were never
released and for whom there has yet to be an accounting. If it
had been your father in that photo, could you ever look at the
Red, White, and Blue in the same way as you did when you were
If it had not been for the families of our Vietnam
POW/MIAs, do you suppose we would have ever learned about the
POWs kept in the USSR after WWII, or those the North Koreans
never released? You see, the POW/MIA flag is more than just a
symbol of missing Americans. It is the symbol around which are
unified the families of those whose loved ones have never
returned, and who have never learned why. It does not matter
from which war, conflict, police action, or peacekeeping
mission the most important people in their lives never
returned. It matters only that their hearts have a piece
missing, and there has never been anything with which to salve
the wound and begin healing.
So those of us who fly the flag--and those of us who
respectfully ask others to fly the flag--do so to give the
families of the missing a small measure of comfort. We do so
to show unity with the families, and to let them know that we
will not forget. We do so because we can do no less.
But the American flag embodies all of that and more, you
say. And I agree with you, it does. It represents our country,
its past, its present, and its future. Yet, to many in this
country the flag is just a piece of cloth. When they see it,
they don't "see" it. They don't feel it. They don't care if
someone burns it, or grinds it into the dirt. They take their
freedom for granted, and have no clue or much care for what it
has taken to give them that which is so precious to us. That
can be a wonderful thing. We pray that they will always be
able to take their freedom for granted.
Those who were (and may still be) held behind the bamboo
curtain do not take their freedom for granted, for they have
no freedom. Their families cannot fully enjoy the freedom
their sons and fathers bought for them. We, as vets, cannot
fully enjoy freedom while the families of our brothers in arms
are incomplete. So through that ugly flag we express our
commitment to our buddies and their families, our support for
the ongoing efforts to repatriate the missing, and our promise
to the next generation of warriors that they will not be left
behind or forgotten as part of the cost of freedom.
Would it hurt so much for your state to join the many other
states in our great nation, and fly the flag of the families
on the same lanyard as the state's standard. It costs little
yet means so much to so many. Your state has borne its share
of the cost of freedom. Please extend a measure of comfort and
reassurance to those whose family members have paid and are
paying the price of that freedom. Thank you.