In early 1999, I was stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base. When you drive on Goodfellow, the first thing you will notice on the left is a parade field. The field is used for various military events, but the most striking aspect of that field is that it is ringed, on certain days anyhow, with a multitude of American Flags.
I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts – and I am thankful that our town, Pembroke, was a patriotic town. We learned at an early age to love our country and to work for the success of our country. We were thankful for the patriots of our state who had helped found the United States – men like John Hancock, John Adams, and Paul Revere who had sacrificed do much so that we could live in a different kind of country. A country founded on freedom. Our town fairs had flags flying over them; our 4th of July celebrations had hymns of patriotism; and our teachers taught us about the greatness of America.
I also grew up in a patriotic family. We loved the stories of great Americans – of Edison, Sgt. York, Jefferson, Eisenhower, and the Green Mountain Boys. When I was a kid, the Cold War simmered and we desperately wanted freedom over slavery. We were proud our boys had won WWII, and we were sure that we would win the next war too, if necessary. We loved liberty and we despised tyrants. We cheered when Eruzione scored in the Olympics. We roared our approval when Reagan said “Tear down this wall!”
When my oldest child, Emma, was born in 1995, I made it one of my parental goals to instill in her the same love of country that I had learned as a child. I knew this would be an uphill battle with the pervasive cynicism and denial of American greatness that had become so popular in the country. So, when she was just a toddler, I made sure that some of her bedtime stories included stories about George Washington and the cherry tree or Abraham Lincoln growing up in poverty, only later to become President of the United States.
One of the things I always stressed to Emma was that the American Flag was something to be respected. Whenever I saw the stars and stripes I would ask her, “isn’t it beautiful, Emma? Isn’t the American Flag beautiful?” Emma, just over three years old would always agree, smiling.
One morning in the spring of 1999, I packed Emma up into my car and headed to Goodfellow Air Force Base. As we drove through the main gate onto the base my mind was drifting about, thinking about sports, current events, or something like that. I wasn’t really tuned in to my surroundings and then Emma spoke up from her car seat in the back.
Snapping back to reality, I answered reflexively, “what is it Sweetie?”
“Look! So pretty!”
I checked my rear view mirror and tried to see what Emma had in her hands. Something must be pretty back there – maybe a doll? Or a coloring page?
“What is pretty, Emma?”
“The Miracle Flag, Daddy.”
“The what?” She was confusing me.
“The Miracle Flag”
I looked to my left and there was the Goodfellow Air Force Base parade field, ringed by what looked to be 50 American Flags. That is what Emma was looking at. The poor little girl – all that time I had been teaching her about the American flag she has been hearing the words all wrong.
I quickly corrected her so that she would get the pronunciation correct.
“Oh sweetie, that’s an American Flag”
“That’s an American Flag. It’s not miracle – it’s American. A-mer-i-can.”
Emma didn’t answer me right away. Instead she got quiet.
Then as we turned left, and the parade field was no longer in her field of view she said quietly, but firmly “well, I think it’s a miracle flag.”
She was right. My daughter just three and a half years old had it exactly right. It is a miracle flag.
It’s a miracle flag because it represents a miracle country and a miracle people. I challenge anyone to survey all of human history and find me the better country; the more just country; the more kind people; the more honest system. You will look in vain, because that nation does not exist.
I know it has become popular to constantly question and deride our country. For some bizarre reason people think they are clever or smart by running down America. Really? I think that kind of cynicism reveals a deep ignorance of history.
Show me the country with better values, better principles, and better founding documents.
I love the flag and the people that flag represents. If that makes me sound corny – I am guilty as charged.
All I know is that one early morning in West Texas, in the spring of 1999 when I was driving with my little girl strapped in her car seat, she renamed my favorite symbol forever.
It isn’t an American Flag – it’s The Miracle Flag.