Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A banner day

About the time Stephen Colbert came to Baghdad (but didn't come to Mass, even though I left word with his handlers that it was an option!), I purchased a number of U.S. flags to give to family and friends as gifts, figuring I'd take them over to Al Faw Palace and ask that they be flown above that facility before I sent them home. I'd heard that the people in charge of that sort of thing would generate a rather impressive certificate to accompany each flag, indicating officially that it had been flown over the Multinational Forces - Iraq Headquarters.

Wouldn't you know, but that program was undergoing a 'transition' just at the time I showed up with my flags, so there was some confusion as to whether it would even be possible. However, SFC McG (as was his wont) worked his 'Senior NCO magic' and a very helpful (even-more-) Senior NCO from the Navy told me he'd make it happen.

As the time of our departure from theater fast approached, I'd still not heard back from the Palace about my flags. Fortunately, with a day to spare, the flags were flown and the certificates generated, and I was able to box up the boxes of flags and send them off to my parents. Each certificate was signed by the Command Sergeant Major and a General Officer.

In the neighborhood where my parents live there are (at least) two WWII Veterans who have befriended Mom and Dad. Joe is in his 90s and is also a veteran of the Korean Conflict. Andy is a bit younger (a very vigorous 88). I think they might even live right across the street from one another, just down the road from my parents.

I called my parents prior to taking the flags to the Palace because I wanted Dad to get me the full names of Joe and Andy so that I could have them inscribed on their respective certificates. Dad later told me that both men wondered why I wanted that information, as did he. They asked him to ask me what was up.

I told Dad that if I told him, I'd have to have them all killed. This was strictly on a NTK (need to know) basis.

Dad chuckled, uncomfortably.

Anyway, when I was visiting my parents recently, I presided at Mass at their parish. Andy and Joe attended, and came to the little reception afterward in the parish hall downstairs.

I made an informally formal presentation of the flag to each man that morning, being sure to thank them for their courageous and honorable service during the Second World War (and Korea). You should have seen their beaming faces.

Dad didn't hesitate to point out to Joe and Andy that the stars on the flag were embroidered into the fabric, rather than just being pieces of cloth that had been sewn on. "I'm flying the one Tim gave me outside our house right now, but will only fly it on special occasions because it's so nice," he told them.

Andy looked up and said, "Now that you know that my name is Virgil Elmer, you can see why I go by the name Andy," with a laugh. "I couldn't for the life of me figure out why you wanted to know our full names."

As he was leaving, Joe said to me, "I feel as if I'd been given this flag by the President of the United States himself," in a hushed tone.

God bless America and her Veterans.

It's a grand old flag.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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Unknown said...

I am one of those "peaceniks" who also considers herself to be a patriot. Thank you, Tim, for what you do as a man, and as a soldier, as well as being a priest. Thank you for bringing the Flags to the two veterans neighboring your parents. Bless both of them. My uncle, father, brother, husbands (more than one) and many friends are serving or are veterans. I would prefer peace, but I am very grateful to all of you when there is no peace to be found! "Where have all the flowers gone..."

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 07/20/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

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