The grand entry was something to behold. The horses and riders whizzing past the grandstands, some decked out in their rodeo finery, some wearing what they wore that day to work, but still magnificent.
It was wonderful to see the joy on the riders’ faces and the intent expression of their mounts.
The manes were flying in the wind tails flagged out behind the horses. Then came a pause, a break in the riders. Once again, like so many times in the past that one horse in particular drew my attention, more so than it’s speeding companions.
It was a stirring sight indeed, this one horse and the rider who was honored to post the colors – the flag of the United States of America.
I briefly noticed the horse and rider. The horse, a lovely palomino with flaxen mane and tail, carried a rider sitting straight and proud. I’m sure the rider was quite pretty, but truthfully, I didn’t notice much about her.
I stood a little straighter and for some strange reason had to wipe a tear from my eye when those beautiful colors waved in the evening sun and quietly settled as the rider slowed her mount to a stop waiting the clear notes of the national anthem.
Then I noticed something more heart wrenching than stirring – the couple sitting to my left and the noisome threesome sitting behind me and slightly to the right.
You see, these individuals either couldn’t be bothered or didn’t care to stand in respect when the Stars and Stripes raced by. They couldn’t even be bothered to show the rest of the crowd the respect to end their mindless chatter for those brief seconds.
Two of the five wore hats that evening and failed to even take them off.
A quick glance at my immediate right and I saw my son had removed his hat and had instructed his young companion to do the same.
I looked around and saw more people than not showing the respect due that colorful banner. Unfortunately, I saw way too many talking and paying little if any attention.
Memories floated through my mind as I saw the indifference–a parade when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old and my father’s hand on my shoulder squeezing just enough to catch my attention. The flag was in sight, not just passing, but already in sight, which meant I was to stand straight, with my hand over my heart. My brother, nearly three years younger than I, already knew to remove his beat-up old cowboy hat.
You see, my daddy spent six months in a Japanese prisoner of war camp after the ship he was assigned to in World War II was damaged and he was taken captive. He had spent nearly four years of his very young life risking his life for all that that banner represents.
It’s true the U.S. flag or any other flag is just a piece of fabric with a specific pattern. I’m not honoring just the piece of fabric when I stand at attention. I’m honoring the memory of my father and all those who served with him, before him or since.
This banner that so many failed to respect is probably the most well known emblem in the world. The lone star of Texas is certainly well known to me, and probably millions of others. Lifelong Okies are familiar with the light blue blanket and Osage Shield of their state banner, but tell me how many other state flags are truly memorable? For that matter, which countries do you immediately recognize their flags?
Most people recognize the Union Jack of Great Britain, the red maple leaf of Canada, some may recognize the Spanish emblem on a backdrop of red and gold stripes, but what about Syria, Honduras, Portugal, or Iran?
These are countries that routinely make the news, but we don’t recognize their flags. How much do you want to bet that people in those countries recognize the Stars and Stripes and understand the power and authority that it carries?
I’m not asking or expecting everyone to respect that piece of fabric, for that is surely all it is, but is it too much for the citizens of this country to recognize the power other countries see upheld by this bright banner? Is it too much to expect a little respect for those who guaranteed our privilege to gather for an evening of fun and excitement?
Some may consider me rude and some may say I’m out of line, but if you can’t show a little respect, at least for those of us who do respect the flag, then do us all a favor, don’t bother to show up until after the colors have been posted.