With the 81st anniversary of Pearl Harbor now upon us, I find myself reflecting a lot upon the “hero generation” that fought in WWII. I read my great-grandfather’s letters to my great-grandmother about his service on that day. Remembrance days in the history of our great nation always strike a chord with me, making my already prominent patriotism overflow.
If my great-grandfather was alive today, I wonder what he would think of the country. Would he even recognize its values, its people, or its upcoming generation?
I remember when kneeling on the field started in 2016. What I’d hoped might’ve been the height of the political drama quickly turned into one of the cornerstones of the news cycle, the poster child prequel for civil controversy, and, ultimately, the handling of it was the reason a lot of us took a football timeout.
Unfortunately, this is a theme we see continued as a validated political narrative. I’ve always thought of the flag as the best version of the USA. Watching swaths of people assign a negative value to the flag was one of the most hurtful things I’ve watched in my life. I sure love this country, but the hurt was not only on my behalf, but it was also the heartbreak for anyone who has defended this nation, served in the police force, the first responders, and the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom.
This behavior simply cannot be the legacy of my generation. It’s a symptom of a bigger problem of misplaced and unwarranted anger towards our country, a generation fueled by a lack of history classes and knowledge of the great men and women who came before us. My friend Wendell sells papers on the corner and tells me how people my age often scoff at his veteran hat. Is that representative of the people we want to be?
An organization I love working with, Warrior Rounds, founded by my friend JT Cooper, does great work in pairing songwriters with veterans. JT is a veteran himself and was over in Mogadishu for what we all know as Black Hawk Down. He calls me his “little sister” and one of his battle buddies, and I don’t know which to feel more honored about. I’ve met the men on his team that he served with in Somalia, and they are some incredible people. When I stand, I stand for them.
My Great Grandfather during WWII, stationed in Pearl Harbor. My Papa in the Korean War. My cousin Petey who served in the air force, my friend Zach in the Army. Everyone I’ve ever sung for in the VA hospitals, their families, and their spouses. The police officer’s wife I sang to at a benefit in Champagne, IL, who had just lost her husband a month before in the line of duty, 4 kids. At the end of the day, no matter what you believe politically, there is a lack of heart in anything other than standing, and when I stand for the flag, I will stand for them.
When I went to elementary, we started the day with a flag-facing Pledge of Allegiance, and we would pick a patriotic song to sing together. Together. At its most basic level, when I was growing up, the flag represented an aspirational America. What we could be, what we strive to be. It represents where we’ve been, who we’ve been, the men who made us great, and the God-given rights that make us free.
As we approach the 81st anniversary of Pearl Harbor, we also see the dawn of what is supposed to cyclically be the next hero generation. It’s up to this generation now to stand up for our values and represent this great country.
Flags unify countries, they fly on battlefields, they are lowered to show solitude, and they are the universal sign for “we were here.” It’s not a symbol of perfection but instead a signifier of trying for a more perfect union. For the men and women who keep us safe on the streets, stationed both in our country and abroad, even if everyone else kneels, when I stand for the flag, I will stand for you.