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Why We Should Stand When the American Flag Passes By

Carolyn worked as a technical writer, software user interface designer, and as a gig writer way before it was hip.

This Texas-sized flag was flapping in the breeze on the shores of the Mississippi River in MacGregor, Iowa.

This Texas-sized flag was flapping in the breeze on the shores of the Mississippi River in MacGregor, Iowa.

They Played Taps

On the Air Force base where I worked at the chow hall as a civilian cashier, and where my dad was stationed for several years, they played Taps, every day, at 5 pm sharp. The familiar tune rings out on a coronet, recorded and replayed on the loudspeaker for everyone to hear. My memory is of a scratchy-sounding vinyl record player blasting over a loudspeaker, followed by the tune that goes with these words:

Day is done,

Gone the sun,

From the lakes,

From the hills,

From the sky,

All is well,

Safely rest,

God is nigh

I was 16 or 17 years old, and I vividly remember an American Flag, officers in dress uniform, and this song blaring over the loudspeaker. During the winter months when the sun sunk early in the evening sky, this song would play as the clouds turned shades of firy orange, sometimes red or violet. And the flag would descend into the hands of gloved officers, who were very serious about the entire matter. They folded the flag, carefully and with decorum, first into long rectangles, and then finally into a triangle. They carried it like a sacred object to complete the ceremony.

My father was an enlisted man in the Air Force, and we were instructed to respect the flag. This meant pulling the car to the side of the road, wherever we were, until Taps ended. My shift at the cafeteria sometimes coincided with Taps, and this memory, having occurred repeatedly, is seared into my mind. I stopped for the flag many times.

My life is now very different. While I will always and forever be an Air Force brat, I have a civilian life and never visit the base. My father retired from the military over 16 years ago, and my husband is a civilian. But I still try to honor the flag. Doing so is part of who I am.

On several occasions in the small town where I live, we have encountered the American Flag in parades, special memorial services, and the like. One of these parades is the annual Gold Rush parade which is part of a community celebration in February. The parade opens with the Stars and Stripes (the American flag), usually carried by police or veterans' organizations. The parade, which usually includes over 100 entries, opens with a sense of decorum, and as the flag passes, I instruct my family to stand up, cover their hearts with their right hand, and remove their hats. I choke back the tears as I watch the flag pass. So many memories are conjured every time I see that red, white, and blue symbol of America.

I look around at my fellow parade-goers. They remain seated, ignoring the flag, or remain uncomfortably uncommitted about honoring the flag in a traditional sense. A few older people, in their 60s and 70s, also remain seated. I am surprised.

Later on in the parade, a realtor-friend comes by with his hands full of small-sized American Flags on sticks, made for waving with patriotic enthusiasm. He hands one to my daughter, who enjoys it for a while, and then starts to lose intrerest in it. I remind her not to drop the flag or let it touch the ground.

Behind me, an older man is tallying the number of horses that have passed on his parade pamphlet, and his friend loudly comments about my instructions to my family. He says "It's refreshing to see a parent teach their kids about the flag." I am proud for a moment, but sad at the same time. I shouldn't be the exception.

Standing for the flag is not about an empty and thoughtless patriotism. It is a symbol of all the hopeful things America stands for.

Standing for the flag is not about an empty and thoughtless patriotism. It is a symbol of all of the hopeful things America stands for. It is symbolic of freedoms that many people in our world covet, despite our country's numberless problems, deep idealistic chasms, economic troubles, and corrupt politicians.

By standing for the flag, I honor my country, and those who attempt to serve it in so many ways. By standing for the flag, I remember those who died as part of the American military, or in other capacities, trying to establish or preserve freedoms, whether in Boston in 1776 or Vietnam in 1971, or in the more controversial and unpopular conflicts our country engages in today. By standing up for the flag, I honor the widows and orphans of deceased soldiers, and the children and wives who grow up without mothers and fathers, sacrificing their family ties so their parents can serve their country in a variety of capacities.

To me, standing for the flag is not a political expression of support for the military or a particular political party, nor is it an expression of aggressive jingoism. To me, it is a deep acknowledgment of my privileged existence in America. Not the "wow, we're superior in every way" type of privilege that is so off-putting to non-Americans, but more like "wow, I'm glad I don't have to wear a burka and can read and say and think and do pretty much what I want." Standing shows gratitude and respect for the people who have tried to preserve this place we still call the "land of the free." Standing for the flag shows I still believe in America and her possibilities.

Let's not forget what the American Flag represents. Photo credit  David Gaylor

Let's not forget what the American Flag represents. Photo credit David Gaylor

This small-town cemetery in Lowden, Iowa has an incredible display of American flags. It is a must see.

This small-town cemetery in Lowden, Iowa has an incredible display of American flags. It is a must see.

American flags honoring fallen veterans on Memorial Day.

American flags honoring fallen veterans on Memorial Day.

Taps Bugler Arlington National Cemetery

Flag Etiquette

© 2008 Carolyn Augustine


Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on September 09, 2010:

Thanks Anna Marie, that was my experience too, but you explained it so well! When I moved into a "civilian" lifestyle, it made me realize how unique that experience was. To me the American Flag is a positive symbol, I don't see what about it could be offensive.

Anna Marie Bowman from Florida on September 09, 2010:

Awesome hub!! It brings back memories from when I lived on base. I was married to a man who was in the military. Every day at dawn, the flag would be raised. They would sound the alert, and everyone stopped; no matter what they were doing. People stopped walking and stood at attention, cars stopped in the middle of the road, every eye turned to where the flag was at on base, whether they could actually see it or not. It was the same thing at dusk, when the flag was taken down for the night. Even at the base movie theater, before every movie, they would show a video of the flag and play the national anthem. Everyone was required to stand at attention. It's a shame to see so many in this country practically forbidden from honoring our flag. I recently read about a city that banned those plastic American flag window things on cars, because it was a "distraction, and might offend someone." Makes me sick.

Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on September 09, 2010:

Thanks Dr Ken, that means a lot!

Dr Ken Romeo on September 09, 2010:

Finally! A patriot! You are a rare commodity these days.

Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on August 03, 2010:

Thank you--maybe at least a strongly opinionated one!

rlaframboise from 1776 on August 03, 2010:

Great Article. You are a great American.

Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on November 25, 2009:

Thanks Army Infantry Mom, that means so much coming from you!

Army Infantry Mom on November 25, 2009:

Beautifully said,...Exactly how I feel too, I was raised by my Grandfather,WW2 Coast Guard Vet, received the Silver Star and I too was taught Great respect for the American Flag and everything it represents. Thanks for sharing this Wonderful and Heartfelt hub !!! HOOAH !!!

Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on November 20, 2009:

Thank you Chrystalluna. I think when we remember the many soldiers who have died in various wars and conflicts and who serve at great risk to themselves, the least we can do is to honor the flag that represents the country they have given their lives and hearts to protect.

Coming from the background I do my thoughts on the matter are fairly strong, but patriotism isn't exclusive or exclusionary. It is merely a celebration of the values we have historically fought and worked for as Americans.

I pray that your nieces and nephews will return home safely. I'm glad your father's service was honored and you have that touching memory.

christalluna1124 from Dallas Texas on November 20, 2009:

Beautiful, Touching and very moving hub. I also remember the flag being folded and presented to my mother and Taps being played at my fathers funeral. I have six neices and nephews in different parts of the military. Two are in Iraq and not a day goes by that I thank God for the protection they provide risking their own lives. I think that sometimes we as civilians forget or take for granted the number of lives freely given to protect su... so AMERICANS FLY YOUR FLAGS HIGH and KEEP YOUR HEADS HIGH!!!

Hi-Jinks from Wisconsin on October 21, 2009:

Ah, coming soon. Quality over quantity. Look around, symbols of Christian holidays are made in basicly non-Christian countries. Why not employ our people? You know American worker making products. Employment, people going to work, and all that makes America strong. Open your eyes.

Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on October 20, 2009:

Thanks Jibberish.

jiberish from florida on October 20, 2009:

Hi-Jinks why is it that you are everywhere, yet nowhere? No Hubs, but pleny of hot air.

I'm sorry about that Wanna. This was a great hub!

Hi-Jinks from Wisconsin on October 20, 2009:

The last thing that was made in this country is Patriotism, and we now have to import those symbols. Hang the flag upside down.

Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on October 18, 2009:

I can see the point you are trying to make. Yet no matter where it is manufactured, as a symbol of our nation it should be respected, if not revered.

Hi-Jinks from Wisconsin on October 18, 2009:

To bad that the American Flag and it's pins are made in China.

Patriotism without truth is meaningless

Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on October 16, 2009:

Thank you PeachFox I'm glad it struck a chord with you.

PeachFox on October 16, 2009:

Well said! Perhaps you should send this to all the jerks who have crawled out of the woodwork and who hide behind the "media" to remind them that this is what its all about.

Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on May 26, 2009:

Thank you.

uncleflag from USA on May 15, 2009:

Thanks for being an American Patriot. I too stand for the American flag.


BOB on July 21, 2008:

these really shows how you can do things with the american flag!!!!

moonlake from America on June 28, 2008:

I was an army brat. I remember living on base and hearing tabs and how it felt so safe. I love the flag and our country and can't understand people who don't.

Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on June 20, 2008:

Thanks, Desert Blondie! Some places seem more "patriotric" than others, so it sometimes surprises me that here in AZ where we have a higher number of retirees, still few people stand for the flag. I would have thought that older people would have had more exposure to this kind of thing, and thus show respect to the flag in greater numbers. It would be interesting to see which states are "most patriotic" in respect to their flag observance. I find the pomp and ceremony behind the flag to be touching and inspiring too. :)

desert blondie from Palm trees, swimming pools, lots of sand, lots of sunscreen on June 20, 2008:

Great hub, wannab! I have my father's flag from his military funeral. He was a Marine in Korea. One of our good, but older, friends recently passed away, he'd also been in Korea. My hubby, who is of the generation of volunteer draft, and whose own father never served (health problems), had never been to the funeral of a veteran. He was very moved as none of the ceremonies were at all familiar to him. As a newspaper reporter, I attended city council meetings and county meetings at least weekly...always stunned by how few 'honored' the pledge of allegiance, and yet still amazed and always moved that this rite occurs at all civic meetings. Used to think it was because I was living in CA, couldn't imagine such disrespect out of my fellow Oklahomans, but maybe it's a nationwide dilemma. Hope not.

Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on June 12, 2008:

Thank you Marisue and SirDent! It's AMAZING that ANY informed American citizen would have a problem with the pledge. I know some people have a problem with "under God," which someone could address in a different hub, but not saying the pledge for that reason alone is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Citizenship used to be an important subject in schools. Our current system seems to encourage exercising freedom without accountability. It is so good to see the younger generation taking an interest in voting again during this election. Taking our freedoms and duties as U.S. Citizens for granted is such a disturbing and frightening thing!

SirDent on June 12, 2008:

I pretty much agree with Marisue's comment. If they don't want to hear anyone say the pledge they can shove their fingers in their ears. The blood that was shed to bring this nation together over the last 230 years demands that we remember what the flag represents. Awesome hub.

marisuewrites from USA on June 12, 2008:

Wannab, when i was teaching first grade, we had a small public outcry for taking the pledge out of our daily routine, they even protested a VOLUNTARY standing and moment of silence to honor our country. We are not a generic country. We do have many cultures and races that we WELCOME. We are the most welcoming nation in the world.

Because our freedom was hard purchased, and is a gift from those who have paid with their lives and limbs, and sometimes sanity, we should be jumping out of our seats with respect. Let us not ever be hesitant to at least ask those around us to stand...and let us always protest and push back when someone says we are "infringing" on their rights if we say the pledge. They can be silent, but we can speak. Both rights are important. I love America has never meant that Canadians or Europeans or whomever does not have love for their country...but while they are on American soil....hear us while we sing and they may join us if they wish. Do NOT forbid us to speak our minds and of our freedoms, is all I ask of them. When in Rome...

great hub great great great!!!

Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on June 12, 2008:

Thank you New Day! I'll add that to my tags.

New Day from Western United States on June 12, 2008:

I cannot listen to TAPS without tears coming to my eyes. If memory serves me correctly, I think today (June 12) is Flag Day in the United States. I hope many people come to read this important, powerful Hub.

oberbreckling on June 11, 2008:

Hi wannab I know I was so upset by it I pulled my kids out and sent them to a different elementary school in the same town right after that year was up.there was alot of other parents that did the same thing this is a town of about 9000 population it had to be done~cool~cya

Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on June 11, 2008:

That is a shame, oberbreckling! Elementary school is where I learned to say the pledge and to sing the national anthem. At my daughter's school, I don't believe they say the pledge every day, but they do repeat the pledge during assemblies a few times a month. They have also learned to sing some patriotic songs that I've only heard but never learned the words to.

oberbreckling on June 11, 2008:

I know what you mean wannab I grew up in a small town where we said the pledge every morning we were thought to respect the flag and our country from a youngsters age and on up my dad was in WWll in the navy I got lots of uncles that were in vietnam Ive got three children going too the same school I went to when I was a kid and last year they stop saying the pledge every morning because one parent hollard about it and your seeing more and more of that every day thanks for letting me comment~cool~cya

Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on June 11, 2008:

Thank you for the insight, Patty. I too have veterans in the family, a brother in the army, and a father who enlisted so he could serve in Vietnam. It is such a shame that people's politics inhibit them from appreciating the service and sacrifice of people in the military. So many of them give up a great deal of their own personal happiness, freedom, health (mental or physical) or even their lives for their country. I agree with your comment that individuals equate the US flag with the GOP, and that does seem to alienate them and tune them out. Also, I was rather disappointed to read through the harsh and vulgar comments on many of the Youtube flag videos. Many of them were so combative I didn't want to include them in my hub, which is a shame, really.

My husband collects flags and flies a number of other flags, including a family flag he made.

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 11, 2008:

When I was 16 & 17, I had to PLAY taps during morning high school announcements - for older students & grads that had gone to Viet Nam and died.

My great great grandfather fought for the Union in the Civil War and two uncles in WWII.  Many friends died in Viet Nam. One of my students was pushed over the psychological edge in Iraq. never to recover probably. But unfortunately, some individuals equate the US flag with the Republican party. I don't like any politics and the flag does not belong to any party; besides, as I wrote in another Hub, I think Disneyland is more a symbol of the US to the rest of the world than our flag is.  

For my school, I fly the flags of USA, Ohio, Michigan, South Korea, Nigeria, Canada, Cameroon, South Africa, and a few others. I think the flag symbolizes the BEST part of each country.  

Thanks for the Hub. thumbs up.

Mark Knowles on June 11, 2008:

You need to watch this film:


Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on June 11, 2008:

wannabwesternfan, I'm waiting for your first hub on vexilology. You flag lover, you!

wannabwesternfan on June 11, 2008:

Even though I am a civilian I have always tried to honor the flag, even when it is inconvienient. I fly a US flag from a pole in my front yard, because I love what it stands for. What America was, is and can become. Thank you for a great hub!

In The Doghouse from California on June 11, 2008:


I didn't see that in the least... it was a simply expression of patriotism and love of country and her people at its finest. Once again Thank you!

Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on June 11, 2008:

Thank you so much, In the Doghouse! That means a great deal to me. I wasn't sure if I conveyed my strong feelings properly. It is so easy with this topic for people to see it as jingoism or some kind of issue only for military families.

In The Doghouse from California on June 11, 2008:


Being moved to tears, I am undecided what I should say to let you know how amazing this Hub is. As a nation our patriotism is certainly lacking. I was just at the funeral of the father of my friend who fought in WW2, he was being buried in a military cemetery. The chills that enveloped my body as the flag was being folded and presented to his wife, and the beautiful coronet playing taps was an experience I will never forget. Yes, my friend, the flag is a symbol of not only America but all those who are America. It commands respect and love. Thank you for your wonderful Hub and for uplifting me today... Thumbs up, Digg, Mixxed, SU...all of the above!

Jakub Wawrzyniak from Ireland on June 11, 2008:

good article

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