Patriotic places in time – rituals, remembrances and symbolism

My brand new Old Glory

Symbols. Rituals. Traditions. They help bind communities together — like the 75th Annual Old Fort Days Rodeo Parade along Garrison Avenue scheduled for Monday.

This afternoon, I participated in a very personal ritual in a very personal yet public place. Neighbors noticed. Joggers passed by. No one, though, knew how important it was for me to assemble, unfurl, and post the brand new American flag on my front porch.

During the early afternoon of September 11, 2001, I made a visit to Wal-mart — purchasing two American flags. The first, I gave to a grieving friend down the street. The second, I tearfully assembled, unfurled, and posted on my front porch, where it stayed for 365 days. These days, I keep it inside — less than 20 feet from where she waved that painful year — as a reminder of the powerful emotions that led me to action that day.

A snapshot of my almost 7-year Old Glory.

 September 11, 2001 Old Glory

September 11, 2002, I retired this flag and replaced it with a brand new Old Glory. Unfortunately, she was blown away in a severe wind-storm. I’ve had flags since, and retired them — replacing them along the way.

It seems appropriate that, while we remember September 11, we shift our primary focus on the lives lost that day to Memorial Day. After all, that was the day our war against terror began in earnest.

We can argue the merits of Iraq but on this weekend, the lives lost are not theoretical, philosophical, or political. The bloodshed is real, it’s painful, and the personal sacrifice is to be honored.

Witness the photograph below. I shot from Brett Hunter‘s Magnum Pitts Special at last Friday’s Fort Smith Regional Air Show 2008. At the far left – top corner – is the runway. Do you see the peace sign painted or mowed into the grass near the plot of ground in the lower third to center of the photo? From the ground, you probably wouldn’t notice it. From an aerial perspective, the symbolism is quite clear.

DSC00216

A subtle, respectful sentiment seen by every pilot, parachute jumper and commercial aircraft passenger. Freedom of speech and sacrifice. Let us remember the precarious necessity of such symbolism.

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