Deep in the boot heel of Missouri, a beige brick house sits proudly on a steep hill. On the porch that reaches across the front of the house are four flag holders. Every day, 365 days a year (weather permitting) the short, stout, gray-haired lady would hang four flags.
The first flag was in honor of her father, who had fought in both the South Pacific and the European Theater during World War II. His immigrant parents were mighty proud of their first son going off to defend their new country. He returned home a hero, bringing with him a chest full of medals.
The second flag was for her brother, the baby, who was raised by his mother and two sisters. With his high school graduation came an invitation from “Uncle Sam” to join up. This young, fun-loving country boy was sent to Vietnam. He came back in one piece, but different. The horror of Vietnam never left him. You ask him to talk about it, and you get, “Heck, that happened 40 years ago. What difference does it make?”
His panacea is work. He has his farm, a car wash and he is on call 24/7 for the railroad. Sleep? Two to three hours a night keeps the enemy away.
The third flag was for the gray-haired lady, one of the few who could say “I was a WAC.” She served during the Vietnam era, taking care of the wounded bodies and mangled minds that returned from Southeast Asia. For years, she did not hang her flag, because being a Vietnam veteran was not the thing to be. She was not ashamed of her service, but afraid of the unkind, wagging tongues.
It’s different now, though, because she’s learned to turn a deaf ear to the negativity. She has learned to be proud, not only of her country, but of her service to it.
The fourth flag is for Kyle, her brother’s son. He was sent to Afghanistan, with the 10th Mountain Division, where his tank was hit by a roadside bomb that left him with a severely mangled body and mind. He is recovering now, if that’s possible. It’s still early, too early to see the true scars of his war.
Four flags waving, each telling its own story, each holding its own secrets, its own pain and its own glory, as a parade of life passes by.