(Written on June 14, 2013)
When I see an American flag:
- I remember military bases in Virginia, Texas, South Korea and (then) West Germany.
- I remember my dad stopping the car at 5 (or 6)pm every evening if we were driving on post at Fort Belvoir so we could get out, stand at attention and listen to taps as the flag was lowered for the night. I remember the cannon boom that was the signal for us to get back in the car and continue driving.
- I remember four years without my dad as he served two tours in Vietnam and I lived in Korea with my mom.
- I remember 3 elementary schools in 4th grade, 3 junior high schools in 8th grade (in two countries) and my dad extending his tour of duty in Germany so I could graduate with my friends instead of finishing senior year at another stateside post with kids I wouldn’t know.
- I remember friends following in their parents’ footsteps and enlisting in the military.
- I remember visiting one friend at West Point several times, including a memorable weekend surrounding the Army-Navy football game.
- I remember working at my first TV station when the first Gulf War broke out. I remember anchoring hourly cut-ins to update the war (even though I’m a producer). I remember editing video of US troops in Kuwait at sunrise, while a radio in the newsroom played the Oleta Adams song “Get Here” and realizing how fitting it was for the situation.
- I remember singing the National Anthem at a UAH hockey game versus West Point the night the ground war broke out and having a near-capacity crowd at the VBCC sing along.
- I remember writing stories about US troops losing limbs and lives.
- I remember September 11, 2001
- I remember working at my final TV station when the second Gulf War broke out.
- I remember watching constant news feeds from CNN and NBC, along with everyone else in the newsroom.
- I remember watching CNN even when I wasn’t working.
- I remember watching an NBC reporter I’d worked with in Miami and was fortunate to have become friends with, report live for hours from onboard a tank as the US military crossed into Iraq.
- I remember reading that my friend had died from blood clots formed from sitting in the same position for hours as he reported live for hours from onboard that tank.
- I remember writing countless stories about countless casualties.
- I remember our reporters placed in the difficult situation of trying to interview families of servicemen and women who paid the ultimate price for defending our country.
- I remember days, weeks, months, years of coverage as the war dragged on and on in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- I remember “Mission Accomplished” – but not really.
- I remember producing interview segments with servicemen and women who suffered physical, emotional and mental injuries as the result of numerous deployments and not enough support.
- I remember producing interview segments with mothers who lost their sons in Iraq or because of it.
- I remember producing an interview segment with a young soldier who worked through his own demons – and remember his lost brother by painting scenes that were both violent and beautiful.
- I remember producing segments with organizations that work tirelessly to help give wounded warriors and their families the help and support they desperately need.
- I remember my father’s veterans benefits shrinking as he struggles with health challenges after giving nearly three decades of his life to Uncle Sam.
- I remember teenagers enlisting in the military, knowing yet not fully realizing the challenges they face in this changing world.
When I see the American flag flying from every federal and public building, and in many front yards, I remember the blood, sweat and tears that went into creating our Star Spangled Banner.
And I think, the words “THANK YOU” seem insignificant to express the gratitude for centuries of victories, sacrifice and loss that have gone into keeping Old Glory flying.