Our nation's flag deserves proper respect

  • Published
  • By Col. John K. McMullen
  • 366th Operations Group commander
While driving around base the other morning, I saw someone run from their car to the entrance of their work center. I didn't think much of it until I happened to look at the clock in my truck. It read 7:29 a.m. I began to wonder if the individual ran to avoid our military tradition of playing reveille where we raise the flag to symbolize the beginning of our day.

Obviously, I can only hypothesize about the person's reasons, but I believe they were trying to avoid paying respect to the flag. It's not the first time I've seen it happen. I'll bet you went to leave the office or gym only to find folks standing at the door waiting for our National Anthem to begin and end while standing under the "safety" of cover so they didn't need to stand at attention and salute our flag.

It really bothers me, especially with so many of our Gunfighters deployed overseas putting their lives on the line to preserve the flag and what it represents. We need a change of culture here and give our flag proper respect. It's not just a piece of cloth. It's a symbol of our freedom and way of life. 

The Army seems to understand this more than their Air Force brethren. In fact, if you ever find yourself on an Army post, people don't simply stop driving during reveille or when the National Anthem plays. They get out of their cars to pay respect.

Born in 1776 with the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the United States is the greatest country on Earth. Those who signed this document didn't do it for personal gain; they all had much to lose. They understood this but signed anyway because they all believed in the ideals of equality, freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

And so began our war of independence. The United States sustained roughly 120,000 casualties during this conflict, but we ultimately won our freedom, allowing us to build on those three basic principles for the next 220-plus years.

Another important document in solidifying our way of life is the Constitution. If you've never read anything about it genesis, it is definitely worth your time. The authors spent months arguing over many issues such as state power versus federal power and proper representation at the federal level of government. These particular arguments formed our Congressional structure and voting. Ultimately, our forefathers created a government where three separate entities -- the president, Congress and courts -- shared power, creating a system of checks and balances vital to proper representation. This bureaucratic system isn't fast or extremely efficient, but it works.

As military men and women, we signed up to support and defend this Constitution and what it represents. Throughout its short history as an independent country, our nation called on the military to protect its freedoms and way of life and the freedoms of other nations on several occasions. Millions gave their lives protecting the simple ideas scribed in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

I don't know about you, but the image of our Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima is forever engrained in my mind. The flag is a symbol of our nation, our freedom and our way of life. It was important to the individuals who risked their lives to ensure it stood tall flapping in the wind.

Think about this the next time you have a choice between saluting our flag and running "for cover" to your office.

At the same time, let's not forget where we came from, the brave people who fought for our independence and those who fight to protect our freedoms today. We owe it to them to pay our respects. More importantly, we owe it to ourselves. We live in the greatest country on Earth, and our flag represents who we are.