I contribute a weekly column to the Platte County Landmark under the “Rambling Moron” name. It’s a great Northland Newspaper and well worth a subscription. The following is an copy of my article which appeared in the 8/16/12 edition – printed with permission.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FLAG CODE
Several years ago, I had a job as an IT (information technology) guy for a small school district. My office was in the front of a tiny preschool because that’s where they put IT guys for small school districts – wherever there is room.
My office was what once was the principal’s office in this old little school building. As such, it had an intercom on the wall, the clock and a window. All the amenities that a small school principal would ever want.
While I wasn’t the principal of this building, people still enjoyed joking that whenever they visited me they were going to the principal’s office to get in trouble.
Because of the office I worked in, one of the duties that fell to me was the United States Flag. The flagpole for this small little school building was unlit, so the Flag Code states that it should be raised at sunrise and lowered at sunset. This translated loosely to me to mean put the flag out when I got to work, and take it down when I leave. Just another chore for me to do along with resetting passwords, installing computers and telling users to reboot.
Every day, I walked into work, hooked the flag up to the flagpole, ran it to the top and then rushed inside to do a million other things. I gave it as much attention as grabbing a cup of coffee or changing a radio station.
That was until one special morning when I was running late to work and rushed into the building about a half-hour late. I still ran the flag out to the pole and hooked it to the rope and began to shoot it to the top. That’s when I saw the elderly man who was walking his dog. As I began to raise the flag, the man stopped, snapped his heels together and gave a slow salute.
Once the flag went to full mast, I tied up the flag and stopped to talk to the man and his dog. He was a veteran of World War II. “Thought you’d forgotten to put her up,” he told me. He also told me a little about his time in the Armed Forces and I thanked him for his service. He then thanked me for taking such good care of Old Glory. He thanked me.
It wasn’t until that day that I truly realized how that mundane task ended up being the most important one that I did all day – at least to that former Army Officer.
I was reminded of that day earlier this week when I was leaving the Parkville YMCA which is right across from Parkville City Hall. In front of the YMCA is a beautiful display of the American Flag, the Missouri Flag and the Flag of Platte County, on this day, all were draped at half-mast. Across the street, in front of Parkville City Hall, was the American Flag waving proudly at full staff. I went to work that day and researched that President Obama had ordered all US Flags to half-mast in remembrance of those who perished in the Wisconsin shootings last weekend and that the Parkville City Hall was flying their flag improperly.
It’s a small detail. I honestly might’ve been the only one who noticed or cared – because it stayed that way all five days of the president’s order. And maybe that says more about the state of the country.
But I’ll tell you who else would’ve noticed – that elderly man walking his dog – that US Army Officer who battled in Germany for the right for that flag to fly.
Yes, it’s a small thing – but in many ways, it’s the most important thing.