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November 11, 2010
The clothesline full of damp laundry out back is taking a lot longer to dry on Veterans Day than it did on Memorial Day, but Old Glory flies just as bravely out front as he ever does, regardless of the weather. He is not nearly the fine example of the flagmaker's art as is my father's old one, folded neatly into the traditional triangle and stored in our hall closet: that flag is woven of heavy linen, and each of his 48 stars is stitched down on all sides of its entire perimeter, and each of his stipes, the same. His colors are almost as deep now as they were when he was new, more than half a century ago. Maybe his white stripes and bright stars are more cafe au lait than snow now, but he was made to last.

No, our new flag -- and he can't be called new, anymore -- is nylon or acetate or something. You can practically see through him. His stars are printed on, not sewn -- and so, for that matter are his stripes. He is anything but hefty; the word that springs to mind is "flimsy." Probably we should be ashamed to fly such a sorry excuse for a flag.

But we are not. I'm not even ashamed of the little dime store flags I stuck in a pot of geraniums out front, and they're even cheaper-looking than our current Old Glory. None of our current crop is esthetically worthy of veneration, but we don't really venerate the flag itself, though we observe certain rules pertaining to its use and care. It's the country the flag stands for that we love.

Military people have given their lives for their fellow citizens. Those who did not die in war did interrupt their lives profoundly, and some of them returned home maimed for life. All lost huge quantities of their own innocence. Some of them believed in the rightness of the wars in which they fought and perished, and some did not -- civilians are not the only people with differing opinions about politics. None of them declared any of these wars. Older people did that. But they were all there on our behalf. None of us who live here are uninvolved with any of them.

I hope those who now serve us in this way can believe that we are somehow worthy of their sacrifice. It would be a harsh thing indeed, if that were not the case.

For those in the Armed Forces of our Country

Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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