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Honor the US Flag

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on August 18, 2008

Yes, here I am again with more stories about New Mexico. This one involves the US Flag.

Before the ‘escapees’ arrived, we had a staff meeting to discuss some of the roles each of us would play along side our duties as shooting instructors. One of the ladies (Beth) asked if any of us were or had been boy or girl scouts. Along with a few others, I raised my hand. Since I was closest to her, Beth selected me and told me I would be responsible for the flag raising ceremoney each morning and that I should marshall the tribes to assist me in whatever method I chose to honor the flag.

And into my care was delivered a flag, directions to the flag pole, the time of the ceremony each day and carte blanche. (Sorry if I spelled it wrong). It was up to me to decide the ceremony. Well. I can do this, I’ve watched and assisted in various flag ceremonies almost weekly for the past half dozen years and while I was younger.

That evening, after we met the ‘escapees’ [my nickname for the participants of the Women’s Wilderness Escape], I chose my first tribe of women, the Hopi’s. Each tribe consisted of 10 women from all walks of life and ranging all through the age spectrum. I explained to the 10 women briefly what we would be doing in the morning, the time and place to meet.

Each of the five days (one for each tribe), we spent about 10 minutes in the morning planning our flag ceremony, then proceeded to perform the honors. Generally, the ceremony consisted of a stately march to the flag, a formation around the pole, raising of the flag, a song and a moment of silence in lieu of a formal prayer. (Yes, we were attempting to be politically correct). On the second morning, the women included a guitar to accompany the singing. On the third, the day’s ceremonial tribe elected to write their own stanza into a song that was funny and included the mention of guns and the second amendment rights we all enjoy. On the fourth day, I suggested instead of singing that a lady named Erin [aka Tall Drink of Water] read instead the words to Lee Greenwood’s song ‘God Bless the USA’. This was especially well received and profound.

Here is what bothers me. Most, not all, but most of the women there – even though they knew the words to the Pledge of Allegiance and SOME of the songs (like God Bless America), did not know a thing about the purpose of the ceremony, how to hang and raise the flag – nothing. Some didn’t want the moment of silence, not even knowing what it was for. Some did not understand why hats are removed – a lively discussion ensued more than once over that with women saying ‘they’ as women didn’t need to remove their hats but the men did. Others thought it was stupid to remind anyone to salute the flag or remove their hats. Some asked if they could skip the ceremony. And on, and on. Oh, My, God. What is it with these people? Hopefully, I explained it well enough to all so that they left with a little more honor for our flag and understanding the purpose of the ceremony.

On the evening of the last day of shooting, we were treated to a rousing speech by Gentleman Bert as to why and how we honor the flag. He was in tears as he explained what the flag meant to him and should mean to us. He challenged us to celebrate our freedom and honor her, Old Glory, as the symbol of that freedom. Earlier that day, I had run out of tribes and had asked Bert if he and some of the staff would honor us with the final Flag ceremony before everyone headed out to the woods for a couple days of wilderness camping, survival training and Cowboy Action Shooting. After Bert’s rousing speech, I don’t think anybody wanted to miss the action the next morning.

That evening, Bert rounded up 5 of us to plan the next day’s ceremony. We would dress in uniform, precision march, shoot off black powder guns, pledge, sing and pray. And indeed, it was a great ceremony full of emotion, honor and praise for God, Country and Old Glory. I carried the flag surrounded by a gun toting armed guard with Bert as drill Sargeant. We marched, we saluted, we briskly raised the flag. Then the gun call was given. Although the guns were only loaded with patches (a few extra in fact) and powder, the guns sounding over my head and the billowing smoke with powder and debris raining on my head made me cringe just a mite. Karen, our wonderful Indian goddess (in my eyes), accompanied the ceremony with ASL hand signs. We gave that old girl (the flag) as much honor, pomp and circumstance as we could and I was proud to be a part of it.

One of the questions raised in Bert’s passioned plea the evening before was, “What are we teaching our children?” How can the generations to come learn to share their heritage and honor our flag, our very foundation of the nation, if we ourselves don’t even know how to honor it ourselves? He gave them this challenge: To learn about the flag, to learn about our freedom, to celebrate our rights and TEACH THEM TO OUR CHILDREN. And if you can’t do this, if you don’t like it, if you don’t like our individual religions – that’s tough. (Actually, it was said a little more forcefully, along the lines of ‘you can go to …’)

All I can say is – Bless you Bert. Teach your children well.


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