To The Daily Sun,
On Monday, Dec. 8, 1941, I sat with my classmates and heard President Roosevelt say over the loudspeaker, "The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor. America is going to war." Little did we realize the impact of that statement until month by month, and year by year, reality set in when six of my classmates enlisted in the armed forces during our senior year — the class of 1944.
One of those who enlisted prior to graduation was named Harvey. He went down with his destroyer that same year. Harvey was a good athlete and might even have had the opportunity to play college baseball, but he never got the chance. He was 19.
Since World War II was a very definitive war, most of those who were physically fit enlisted, and the draft boards were very busy. There was a display of patriotism to honor and defend our country. A roommate of mine on board our ship in the Pacific was at Pearl Harbor at the time of the carnage, and the horror, and the unbelievable tragedy. Needless to say, he did not talk about it much; he saw it for real.
Since the presidential election, I am appalled at the actions among many of our high school and college students. The former who walked out of school, and the latter who were let out of class by their professors. What a sad commentary! All this under the guise of protecting our young people from becoming emotionally upset by fear, or whatever. If the election result is enough to cause this problem and reaction, then we are in a sad state of affairs.
As we practically stand on the eve of the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, America is being held hostage by those who are taking advantage of "their right" to burn or destroy our flag. Protesters cut the flag in strips and replaced the stars with some sort of symbol, and then smiled while it was swallowed up in flames. In 1989, in deciding the Texas v. Johnson flag burning case, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia thought desecration of the flag was despicable, but he also knew the First Amendment to our Constitution considered such an act as a form of "free speech."
I have no idea why people take out their anger on our flag, as it is the people not the flag, who are the cause of the friction that exists. I am so weary of continually hearing the multitudes say, "I do not agree with the act but defend the right to do it." To that I say: baloney! I will tell you who has rights that no one pays attention to, it is the over 400,000 brave Americans who died in World War II, and the hundreds of thousands who were wounded while saving England, France, and the world in the process, to make sure that "Old Glory" still flew gallantly over America.
Those heroes have a right to be honored and respected. Who looks after their rights? Every time our flag is dishonored, or our national anthem butchered by a performer, our honor suffers.
What we all need is a history lesson. Over 200 years ago, during the war of 1812, the British told the Americans that if our flag was still flying at dawns early light, they would give back the Americans they were holding prisoner. Against overwhelming odds, our brave soldiers made sure the flag was still standing at dawn. The flag staff was being held in place by the bodies of the fallen soldiers at Fort McHenry, it never touched the ground. For most of my 90 years I have lived by the creed that our stars and stripes should never touch the ground. Who sees to it that the rights of our fallen are honored and respected?
Our flag rose from the ashes after Pearl Harbor. It will rise again and again from the ashes created by the cowards who, with a little match, burn it to ashes.
William H. Atkinson