The day had dawned beautiful and sunny. A friend and I decided to take a hike up one of my favorite mountains in this area where I live. Prior to our trip there, I was aware that a patriotic member of my community had placed a large American flag on top of the mountain earlier this summer and that many people had made the trek up to there to see it, take a picture, or sign the wooden stake to which it was attached. I had hopes of getting to see it on my trip to the top as well. It would be a welcome reward for all of the climbing it took to get there.
However, part of the way up, we saw someone carrying what looked to be the flag and bringing it down the mountain. I called out to the fellow and asked him what was going on. He said it had gotten tattered, so he was going to replace it with a new flag soon. I told him that we had wanted to see the flag, and he offered to stop and let us take pictures as well as sign it if we wanted to. He mentioned that he was an Army veteran. He simply wanted to take care of the flag his buddy had put up there in the first place. No tattered flag on his watch. As I was just about to pull out my pen and sign the stake, a gust of wind blew past, unfurling the flag in all its glory. My friend, inspired by the moment, began to sing the National Anthem. I paused and joined in. The veteran joined us too. Instantly, we suddenly were brought together as we shared one short but powerful moment. The flag waved slowly in the gentle breeze. We were Americans. Strangers until that second, we seemed to now be friends. I thought of all of the sacrifices this veteran had endured. Most likely, due to his apparent age, he had probably served at least one, if not more, deployments during his time. He had potentially lost close friends who gave their all in the cause of freedom. As the last notes of the song faded, I knew what I had to sign on the stake. I wrote it clear: In memory of Michael Lasky. In memory of my friend who died in Iraq while serving this nation and this state he so loved. I signed my name and the date. The Army veteran then said, "I should sign it too." And he did.
Just as we were about to leave, a beautiful bald eagle soared above us. It was an awesome touch from God. A reminder that freedom is always worth fighting for. As I walked away, I thought to myself, the ones who truly understand the significance of caring for the flag, of fighting for what's right, are the ones who know and have seen what it's like to lose it. Soldiers and Marines who fight in foreign lands see firsthand what tyranny is. They can see how blessed this nation really is. They return with so much to teach us about learning how to not take our liberties for granted. And yet, we rush on past them. We complain about how long the barista is taking making our coffee; or how inconvenient it is that we have to wait in line so long for the check stand at the grocery store. Never thinking about how fortunate we are to simply have a chance to live this one day well! Some people who live in countries ruled by hatred and dominated by fear, never can tell if they will live through the rest of a single day! Our military service members see this firsthand and they come home more appreciative for what they have. If we took the time to ask them to teach us, if we took the opportunity to ask them to help us understand what its like to not have freedom at all, just maybe we would become more grateful and willing to fight for the freedom that is ours already.