(The writer notes that this piece by John A. Delizza, and condensed below, was first submitted to the Sabina Advertiser and published in 1989 in remembrance of Robert D. Pratt and Maynard R. Harris.)
Twenty-six years ago, I was in a small town outside Salerno, Italy. It was around the end of World War II. The town had been completely destroyed, deserted by all inhabitants — smoke, ruins, flame and destruction were all around us.
I was a young boy then. My friends and I were looking around for food; we were starving and scared. All of a sudden we heard the terrible noise of machines — tanks were coming our way. We were scared. We embraced each other from fear.
Suddenly, in these clouds of smoke, we saw a flag, standing up straight, full of pride and honor. We kept looking at the flag, looking … looking … and all of a sudden a smile was coming back to our faces. It was the American flag! We cried and screamed with joy in our hearts. The fear was gone; there were no more soldiers to kill us.
“The Americans are here!” we cried. “Freedom is here at last!”
How I have learned to love that flag ever since. Now I have lived in America for 24 years and been a citizen for 20. I have learned to love and respect that flag more and more. But then one day I saw in the capitol of this great nation a young American burning the American flag and waving the communist flag. I could not feel anything but horror. I was shamed and brokenhearted.
Then tears came down my face. “Man,” I said, “you are not an American. Your father could not be the same soldier that gave me life, freedom and justice on those far hills of Salerno. You don’t really know what freedom means. If you believe so deeply that your country is wrong and the enemy is right, then go there, to China or Russia, wherever you think you want to be. I am sure that down deep there are many Americans that would be more than willing to help you and other people like you with a one-way ticket out of this country. But don’t come running back home to us because you didn’t find running water.”
To burn the American flag is treason. Ignoring the act is worse.
Connie S. Harris