Festival of Flags

Each year, for the two weeks that surround Memorial and Veteran’s Days, the city of Ringgold celebrates the lives of deceased soldiers by setting up wooden crosses and American flags throughout the city. (Catoosa News photo/Adam Cook)

Dear editor,

I love our country. I know it isn’t perfect, but I believe we would be hard pressed to find a better place to live and raise our children. One of my favorite songs is Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.”

And I’m proud to be an American

Where at least I know I’m free

And I won’t forget the ones who died

Who gave that right to me

And I gladly stand up next to you

And defend her still today

‘Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land

God bless the U.S.A.

Whenever I have the opportunity, I visit battlegrounds both in the United States and abroad. While touring these sites, I always take the time to walk through the military cemeteries. Arlington, Gettysburg, Manilla’s Military Site, and the Punch Bowl in Hawaii, are just a few of the cemeteries I have visited. These sites are hallowed grounds. To be in the presence of so many who lost their lives in the service of our country always humbles me and brings tears to my eyes.

When we moved to northern Georgia 12 years ago, I was anxious to visit the Chickamauga Battlefield and cemetery. The weekend before Memorial Day, I was ready for another emotional day walking through the national park. But, what I wasn’t prepared for was what Ringgold did to honor their veterans.

I was thankful no one was behind me when we turned onto Robin Road that morning. As far as we could see there were U.S. flags waving in the morning breeze. I slammed on the brakes because the flapping of the flags sounded like gunshots drawing our attention to the display. At the base of each flagpole was a cross with the name of a person and the war or conflict he/she had served in. There was something respectful, memorable, honorable and perhaps healing about these symbols.

The “Festival of Flags,” as it is called, has over 1,100 flags, representing Ringgold men and women who served in the military. I was also surprised that an ultra-liberal group hadn’t challenged the symbolism of this display in the courts.

As you can tell, I am not politically correct in my views on separation of God and country. I grew up in a time where we said the Pledge of Allegiance in school every morning. The entire class stood, faced the flag, placed our right hand across our chest, and said, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

I was also an Eagle Scout. Every Monday evening our troop stood at attention, saluted the flag, and said the scout’s oath. “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country …”

Even though most people don’t know the final verse of the Star Spangled Banner, it also mentions this connection.

“And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

The more we try to separate God from our country, the weaker our national pride becomes. Ronald Reagan said it best.

“If we forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”

The “Festival of Flags” is an important tradition. I am pleased that Ringgold recognizes the sacrifices our veterans made for our country. I hope someday, hopefully not too soon, a flag will fly above my name on a boulevard in this town. God bless the U.S.A.

Bruce Gaughran, Ringgold, Ga.