Years ago, I heard an amusing story about a minister who thought it would be a good idea to fly a special “church” flag over the worship building’s tower to honor and celebrate special occasions and milestones in his church.

So, during his Sunday morning service, he mentioned his plan to the congregation asking help for the kind of flag that might be appropriate.

A day or two later, an elderly parishioner brought the preacher a very old, but unused flag she claimed she had found in her attic. “It’s very colorful and looks to be in perfect condition,” she said.

The minister thanked her, noting that it didn’t appear to be a state flag and it certainly wasn’t the “stars and stripes” but it was colorful and seemed to be what he had in mind.

Wasting no time, the preacher proudly hoisted it high atop the church tower. About an hour or two later while busy working in his church office, there was a loud knock on the door. The visitor was a sailor wearing a broad smile.

Begging the religious man’s pardon, and trying his best not to laugh, the smiling sailor said, “Sir, you might not realize this but there’s a signal flag flying atop your church tower that we use in the Navy. It’s a signal flag which means “In great difficulty — Urgent help needed.”

While I’ve always been amused by that little story, there’s nothing funny about disrespecting what flags represent.

When I was a kid growing up in England, I would often go to the pictures (you know, the movies) and at the end of the film people would all stand while a huge image of Britain’s flag, the Union Jack, would be displayed while “God Save the Queen” was being played.

It was an overt display of respect for Great Britain, royalty and the sense of loyalty and belonging to the country at large. Although I haven’t been to the pictures in England for a long time, it’s a tradition that is probably and unfortunately long gone. Still flags are powerful expressions of what we value regardless of our background, our race or economic status.

Once while on vacation in New England, I stopped at an old bed and breakfast with a huge pristine red, white and blue flag flying proudly atop the flagpole. Just below that very flag was a somewhat smaller tattered and torn flag which certainly had seen better days.

Inside the large two-story home above the fireplace was the portrait of a handsome young man. As I got to know the owners, Mitch and Amy Ryder, I learned the portrait was of their 25-year old son who had been killed in the jungles of Vietnam. Among his remains sent back to the family was that torn and frayed flag along with his other personal effects.

The Ryder’s had no idea where that old flag came from, but they knew it must have meant something meaningful to their son.

Whether you’re attending a high school basketball game, a rock concert or even lucky enough to be in Miami for Super Bowl 54 (sorry, I don’t like Roman numerals), be certain to stand up and honor the flag whether or not you’re a Democrat, Republican, conservative, liberal, American-born, or immigrant. That flag represents us all in a way nothing else can or will. Like Pro Football Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw once said unapologetically, “I’m a man who loves the flag.” So do I, Terry, so do I.

Mike Fitsko is a retired principal and longtime columnist from New Braunfels.

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