We recruit our heroes in the prime of their youth. Our sons and daughters bravely step forward to be counted among our nation’s defenders. They courageously confront our enemies in battle.
For many families, the story does not end with a triumphant, joyous return to the bosom of their loved ones. Our heroes come home in a silver box, silently honored with the utmost, solemn respect of their comrades. The fallen are then laid to rest and their next of kin are handed the flag that covered their casket—reverently folded by an honor guard.
It is never a fair exchange—surrendering the life of a son, husband, daughter or mother in exchange for a folded flag. What assuages the pain of this trade is the knowledge that the honored dead gave their life for a higher purpose that we may live in freedom. The fallen died for the values for which our country stands. The flag, with its fifty stars and thirteen alternating red and white stripes is the physical representation of those values.
If you do not know what those values are, then make it a point to read the declaration of independence, the constitution, and, in particular, your bill of rights. Whether America has always lived up to our values is an argument for another day. Leadership is not about moral perfection, it is about the relentless pursuit of moral perfection knowing that perfection can never be fully attained.
The values of our nation and their defense by the courageous youth of America throughout the centuries is why we stand for the flag. To do anything else is a mockery of what deserves our solemn reverence.
Everyone should always stand for the flag. As you do, focus on the values that bind our country together. On Memorial Day especially, remember the fallen. Look at your child and know that somewhere there is a Gold Star family that only has a photograph and folded flag to hug.
Stand and remember.