He must have been about 6 years old at the time, and the question came seemingly out of the blue. “Why do we stand when the flag passes by, Mommy?” he asked with that youthful innocence that is so common. As we stood in the hot sun watching a parade, I looked around. We were in the minority that day; many other people were not standing when the flag floated by. Why were we?
Immediately, I almost gave the pat answer that I always offer up when I don’t know what else to say; “Because that’s the rule.” But, I didn’t. I stopped for just a moment and considered what to say to this young boy who didn’t understand the sacrifices so many had made to protect our freedom. His heroes were mainly in cartoons and he was just beginning to understand that heroes walk among us everyday.
We stand for my grandfathers, who fought a war with honor and came home heroes. We stand for my father, who fought another war with honor but came home shunned. We stand for my husband who is in a generation of service-members whom the country argues and debates about. We stand in hopes that he will always come home to us whole. We stand for my sons, that they may always know that their freedom was a gift from all of men and women who served their country proudly.
We stand for all those who cannot stand. For those valiant people who gave up their life to insure freedom, for the ones who came home injured in body or spirit, for the ones who never came home at all. We stand for the families that have been affected by war and pain, who suffer each day. We stand for a country that grasps constantly to try to understand the impact of war and the necessity for the armed forces.
We don’t stand because it’s the rule.
I stand because I am a military spouse who is proud to be one. I stand because my heart swells when I see our flag. I stand because the American Anthem gives me the chills. I stand because it is right. I stand because I cannot sit.
I will teach my child to stand out of respect. Now, I tell him of the heroes who walk among us, and those who have gone before. “Be proud,” I say, “Of who you are and where you are from.” In my mind I whisper a silent prayer that he may understand the sacrifice that he himself may be asked to make. May he always stand for all that is right and just in our country, and all that is wrong as well. Someday, maybe he will understand even more about why we stand. Until then, we will continue to stand each time our flag passes by, even if we do it alone.