Paying respect to the American flag

On Feb. 23, 1945, just four days after U.S. Marines invaded a small island halfway between Japan and the Mariana Islands, an American Flag was raised atop a dormant volcanic known as Mt. Suribachi on the Pacific Island of Iwo Jima.

This flag raising marked the first Japanese homeland soil to be captured by the Americans and delivered a devastating blow to the honor of Japan. The roar of the Marines on the beach and the ship horns blasting away signaled that the advance of the Marines had been successful and that America had prevailed.

Since that proud moment for America, 71 years have passed and all but a few of the brave men who fought so valiantly on that day remain to speak of their overwhelming sense of ovation at that emotional sight … at that proud moment… in our country’s history.

The display of the American flag whether it be aloft a giant flag pole, carried in a parade or draping the casket of a fallen veteran serves as a reminder of who we are as Americans, and that we remember those who have made this country good, every patriot, every hero, every sacrifice and that we have not forgotten our promise that we will never forget.

The death of the last surviving veteran of Iwo Jima, as it is with all wars, will mark the end of a historic era for men and women whose home eventually becomes the cold pages of history. But the flag under which these brave veterans lived and fought will remain immortal, left to the next generation as a rallying point of unity and a symbol of uncompromising faith.

H.C. Bunner’s inspiring poem reminds us of our inherent obligation to future generations.

The Old Flag

Off with your hat as the flag goes by!

And let the heart have it say;

You’re man enough for a tear in your eye

That you will never wipe away.

You’re man enough for a thrill that goes

To your very finger-tips—

Ay! the lump just then in your throat that rose

Spoke more than your parted lips.

Lift up the boy on your shoulder high,

And show him the faded shred;

Those stripes would be red as the sunset sky

If death could have dyed them red.

Off with your hat as the flag goes by!

Uncover the youngster’s head;

Teach him to hold it holy and high

For the sake of its sacred dead.

As our 40th President, Ronald Reagan, reminded us, “Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

President Reagan’s insightful words are especially true today as we willingly accept the endless desecration of our nation’s flag in the name of “freedom of speech” and dismiss the offense as simply a sign of the times. We must recognize that this desecration is actually brought about by a generation who never learned to fight for their freedoms, but instead are only good at enjoying them.


Tony Elliott is Veterans’ Services Counselor, Hawaii Office of Veterans’ Services Kauai.


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