Mixed in among the many tributes being offered by the media on the tenth anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attack on our country was a news item that brought me as much heartache as revisiting the horrors of that fateful day. Brookline, a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts was contemplating a demand by a group known as the Brookline Political Action For Peace, that the reciting by students of the Pledge of Allegiance must no longer be allowed in public schools.
Just think about that for a moment. In the history of this country more than one million four hundred thousand men and women have fought and died under that flag. Tenfold that number have shed their blood just so students, teachers, parents…all Americans, would have the right to stand free and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
Now we have a despicable group of individuals who have given voice to a demand that students no longer learn or recite that promise to their nation. The rationale for making this demand is that reciting such a pledge is reflective of what takes place in totalitarian regimes. What is even more disgusting is the idea that any school administration would even allow such a demand to be considered.
I immediately thought back to the 1960s when I was a member of the Military Advisory Group in Vietnam. We wore civilian clothing, lived in civilian quarters, drove civilian’s vehicles and displayed no military markings. There was no wearing or displaying of the American Flag. I cannot put into words feeling of despair that would come over me every time I looked up and saw that Vietnamese yellow flag with red stripes waving overhead. This was not the flag of my country, but I was being asked to risk my life under that banner.
We have all heard stories of our brave POWs and how they continued to honor their flag under the most trying of circumstances. One of my remembrances is a story told by Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona. During the years he was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, McCain was incarcerated along with fellow American Mike Christian. He recalls that Christian was a Naval Aviator who was commissioned from the ranks and later earned his wings. The Selma, Alabama native created a small American Flag out of bits and pieces of cloth taken from his and fellow prisoners clothing. The POWs would display the flag secretly and say the Pledge of Allegiance whenever possible. One day, the Vietnamese discovered the flag hidden on Christian’s body. It was taken away and he was severely beaten. When the officer regained his strength, he immediately started to fashion another American Flag.
I can proudly say that the schools attended by my grandchildren still proudly honor our flag. I recall one Veteran’s Day ceremony at my granddaughter’s school. All veterans were honored and everyone gathered outside under the flagpole. The Colors of our Nation were raised and everyone recited the Pledge of Allegiance. What kind of despicable human being would want to deny such experiences to any student?
Sadly, all of the Americans who bled and died under our flag gave their lives just so people like this could make such vile protests.