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"Optimism (light) is the power that ultimately defeats fear (darkness)."

Sunday, September 18, 2005

National Pride, Gimbal Lock, and Dead Reckoning

I was MilBlogging tonight, click, click, and then I stopped. Right in front of me were words that just screamed out at me: Where's Your Pride? Well, of course I had to read this, because, well, Air Force Wife challenged me. Here's the snippet that did the old smack down and made me really think:
I have posted before about my irritation in the response of many people now to the National Anthem. Although usually the majority of people around me stop - there are a few who don't, and no one ever calls them on it. Not that we really CAN say anything about it - it's an unenforceable rule, especially when it comes to dependents. But have we as a nation sunk so low that even many people who have chosen to serve in the Armed Forces blow off the symbol of what they are serving?
Yikes, that really says a ton in a very short paragraph. I was locked in, and kept going. What came next stopped my thinking and hit my heart:
And let's be honest, we are not honoring and respecting George Bush when the National Anthem plays - we are honoring and respecting the country which we love enough to die for, to give up our most beloved for, if necessary. Who is or isn't the president should not be a factor whether we are respectful or not. And if it is, I think we can easily be classified as a "fair weather patriot".
Now, hold on to your hat, 'cause this is the clincher (for me):
It takes pride to move forward. Pride in ourselves and what we can achieve. Pride in the system that allows us the flexibility to become what we can and move forward. The National Anthem is but a symbol, but the ability to recognize and integrate symbolism (and opposable thumbs) is what separates us from the rest of Kingdom Animalia and makes us what we are. Our life is full of symbols - crosses, crescents, stars of David, flags, company logos, even the dollar is a merely a representation of the capital our government professes to hold in one way or another (simplistically speaking, of course).
After reading her post, all the way through, all that came to mind was, :great:

I really cannot find the correct emphasis to place on that word: great. I could use an exclamation point, but it seems like I'm overdoing it. When I typed it, the word great, I sighed inside - because some have lost the code, the camaraderie, the commitment, the love, the sacrifice, the respect, and the honor. She is asking where has it gone, and I can honestly say I too have seen the same reaction to Revelry or Taps or the National Anthem - when I was active duty from '81-'87.

It is still very hard to put my finger on it. These questions hit me then, and still do today after reading her post:

  • Was it that they are people of varying ages?
  • Maybe they are civilians or a dependents of a service member?
  • Was it who was the President at the time?
  • Am I on an Army, Navy, or Air Force base?
  • Are these people just flat out bored with their lives?
When it was "time" I stopped on the sidewalk or patch of grass, I nearly got hit by cars when I'd pull my car over, I'd find people bumping into me annoyed that I stopped, like, "What the heck?!" Was my stopping that much of a bother - "do I offend?" (as Ducky said in Pretty in Pink)

But, those "infractions" aren't all just for the flag or our country. Often times I'd see other enlisted guys go out of their way to walk a decidedly circuitous route so that they wouldn't have to salute an officer.

I once went "sorta" out of my way _to_ salute an officer. I didn't recognize him right off as I was fumbling in my wallet at the same time, walking out of the BX on Rhein Main AFB. I refused to use the "wallet trick" to keep from saluting an officer. I worked on the flightline. The "warriors" of the US Air Force are in the air, we stay on the ground. Respect? You Bet! I looked up, knowing I still had enough time to be respectful, and I slowed and snapped - he looked at me dead square in the eyes and said, "No need to salute, airman, you keep me safe!"

What on earth? I was blank. I followed him back into the BX. I needed to know who the heck said that, and why. Turns out he was a navigator, a very good one, and he knew that without us, all he'd have is plain old "dead reckoning" (we Nav Systems guys and Navs know that is an understatement, 'cause you can reckon all ya want, but, you're dead lost!). He flew into West Berlin, via the corridor, often. Without Nav Systems, it is a very tense couple of hours to say the least! Especially during the Cold War - Migs would still take out a C-130 lumbering along. Well, OK, some of those Hercs have some ... stuff ... to help ... 'nuf said.

Today, many years later, in my daughters school yard, they say the Pledge before class (oh yeah, in CALIFORNIA no less!), and it is K-8. There are always parents standing around during the Pledge, and I am still RAM-ROD-STRAIGHT, left hand gripping my seam, no daylight between my cuffs. Those parents may look and they may stare, but if one of those bone-heads says, "Play ball", I'll cuff 'em. Other than the fact that they have the wrong song, and venue, they have lost what's important - respect and honor.

Maybe that is where it has gone? Has the media and those in Hollywood inflicted a "mashed potato" culture on us all, thereby bringing the flag lower and lower ... ??? You know what happens if Old Glory touches the ground ... 'nuf said.

There are those of us who still hold Old Glory high. We still salute on Flag Day, 4th of July Parades downtown, or on base, in the direction of the base flag pole. And, yes, I made sure I knew where the nearest pole was when the time came.

Thank you for the "cross check" I received tonight, Mam. No more "gimbal lock" here, I know my way again.

Stay Tuned to ...


At 9/18/2005 05:43:00 PM, Blogger LL said...

This reminds me of an event a few months ago. We were at a company picnic at a ball park and had tickets to the game. When the National Anthem was played I noticed a guy still had his hat on. I was caught between wanting to show my respect to the flag and anthem by standing still and eyes locked on Old Glory and wanting to take a few steps forward and popping Mr. Disrespectful in the back of the head to knock that cap off. I was trying to do that evil woman whisper, you know the one, pssss, hey, you, hat!!! That was kinda disruptive too. What do you do but go on and afterwards keep giving the idiots the evil eye.

At 9/18/2005 11:34:00 PM, Blogger LinkedInUSAF said...

I just love how Air Force Wife inferred that she didn't care how they acted because she _knows_ what she is doing.

You never know, your steadfast respect was visible to many. You may have made a lasting impression on some small young person that will stick with them forever.

Best to be a great example than to uncover a lousy one for all to see.

Someday, karma, life, his supidity, will catch up. That's the day we need to go even farther to support and provide - as well as be an example. :)

At 9/19/2005 09:58:00 AM, Blogger GunnNutt said...

Last time I saw a young man with his hat on during the anthem, I did knock it off his head. He thanked me!

At 9/27/2005 11:10:00 AM, Anonymous SK said...

This was a terrific post. Thank you for serving.


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