I learned about the flag when I lived in Japan. Among the people of this proud nation, I watched as their flag was held high. I listened to their stories of battles won in the Pacific. And, when they bowed before their leaders and their gods to show respect, I realized I loved my home, my country.
My dad has always flown the flag. My husband, brother and cousins served in Viet Nam, and later Iraq and Afghanistan. Navy, Army, Marines and Air Force are all represented in our extended family. But, somehow it wasn't real when I was a child. I was not self-reflective about who I was until I lived in another country and experienced the depths of their patriotism. It was then that I realized that my family was not just relatives and in-laws.
When I see the flag, I see you....my neighbor, my colleague, my unknown fellow Walmart shopper. I see a country, my country--divided into Blue and Red states, arguing over rights--perceived or real, struggling with crippling issues of poverty, global warming and all the 'isms. Yes, when I see the flag I know, this is my family. And, as tears well -- for those known and unknown who sacrificed for me--and you, for their hopes and dreams and yours and mine, I cry.
What I didn't know as a child, I know now. The flag is but a symbol, but like a cross or a hammer and sickle, it speaks loudly. And for me, it tells the story of the love that unites us all.