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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A simple memorial

Over at Chuck Ziegenfuss' blog, he posted a Memorial Day entry about a simple memorial site that I found rather touching (and at the same time, infuriating):

I'm not that good a neighbor. I was even cutting anyone's lawn. I was cutting the knee-high grass in the divider strip. And no, I'm not that civic minded. I was doing was cutting the grass around a memorial site erected at the start of the war. it's not that much, a few flags stuck in the ground, a streamer or two and a message board. But it is a memorial.

To me, this simple memorial across the street has more meaning than all of the marble and granite memorials in Washington D. C., Arlington, Gettysburg, and every town square and post office/fire hall in the country. Those memorials all have meaning. A remembrance of was gone by, sacrifices made, fathers, brothers and sons lost for the cause of liberty. Those memorials stand in mute testimony of all we hold dear-- the values, lifestyle and freedom for which we will sacrifice our brightest and bravest.

But not across the street. Across the street is a simple memorial made by one man, a man whose only real connection to this fight is a cousin who works rebuilding Iraq. He's had the memorial of since the first day of the ground war, He's even had legal battles with neighbors who didn't appreciate what he was doing. Those neighbors accused him of creating an eyesore, (out of American flags!) Of not having "the right" to display the flags in the public's space, and of not asking permission from the landowner of the rental community he lives in. He fought them tooth and nail, and even though he received many letters of support, the landowners wrote him a letter telling him to either take down the memorial or face eviction. Eventually, he had to take the flags down. He said it was the saddest day in his life, and he cried the entire time he was doing it. In the end, a few of our state representatives became involved, and told him in no uncertain terms: "go ahead and keep the memorial off and let us know if you have any more problems."

I’m glad all this happened before I moved here or I would have a few less neighbors to sit around and b*tch. I would also, had I known sooner, have completely lined my yard with flags, covered the house in banners and bunting, and generally made the largest red-white-and-blue eye sore you've ever seen.

I'll never understand people who get "offended" by displays of the American flag. Maybe I'm delusional, but isn't this... well... America? Agree or disagree with the war or not, the proper and decent thing to do is keep your mouth shut and stand behind your troops. Obviously, no one has to. But again, it's just the decent thing to do. Be patriotic -- it ain't gonna kill ya! Our soldiers need our support -- they need to know that their country is standing behind them, more than I think some people know. Just imagine how it must feel to hear, as a soldier who is or has been fighting in Iraq, or Afghanistan, that a memorial with American flags is being forced to take down because it is an "eyesore". I mean, my God... how much more unpatriotic can you get?

And even if -- IF -- this was in "public space" in a neighborhood and he wasn't "allowed" to have it up, does it matter? Is it a fight that needs to be fought? Seriously now. What these neighbors should have done as good, principled, decent, proud, and patriotic Americans is follow his example and hang a few flags of their own. But no. It's an eyesore.

Chuck is an Army officer who fought in Iraq and was injured by an IED. He's undergone over 30 surgeries in, I believe, a little more than two years. And he's out there cutting the grass for memorial of a war he not only fought in, but was injured in -- and seriously so. Chuck, and the man he's speaking of who built the memorial to begin with, are true patriots. We should all follow their examples.

Make sure you read the whole story.