That ragged old flag

Published 10:00 pm Friday, September 26, 2008

There are only a few occasions in this column that a scripture verse is either implied or expressly quoted. For almost twenty-five years now, I’ve been privileged to write for newspapers all across Alabama. I do not take that honor lightly. Today, there is no specific verse that I’ll mention. Perhaps you can find one. If you do, let me know for the sentiment expressed here is every bit as deep as those that fill our hearts when we contemplate our faith. The column today consists of a poem that was sent to me some time ago by a dear friend who used it in a sermon preached on the Sunday before Independence Day. The author of this poem, like those who rest in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, is known only to God. The events of these last days have prompted me to dust this off in an effort to remind all of us of how dear and precious the gift of freedom truly is. The poem is entitled: Ragged Old Flag.

I walked through a county courthouse square on a park bench and an old man was sittin’ there. I said, “ your old courthouse flag is kinda run down.” He said,” naw, it’ll do for our little town.” I said, “ your old flag pole is leaning a little bit and that’s a ragged old flag you’ve got hanging on it.”

He said, “have a seat,” and I sat down. “Is this the first time you’ve been to our little town?”

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I said, “I think it is.” He said, “I don’t like to brag, but we’re kinda proud of that ragged old flag.”

“We got a little hole in that flag there when Washington took it across the Delaware. And it got powder burns the night Francis Scott Key sat watching it writing, “O Say, Can You See?”

“And it got a big rip in New Orleans with Packingham and Jackson tugging at the seams. And it almost fell at the Alamo beside the Texas flag, but she waved on through.”

“She got cut with a sword at Chancelorsville, and she got cut again at Shiloh Hill.”

“There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard and Bragg, and the South wind blew hard on that ragged old flag.”

“In Flanders Field in World War One she got a big hole from a Bertha gun. She turned blood red in World War Two she hung limp, and low a time or two.”

“She was in Korea and Viet Nam she went where she was sent by her Uncle Sam.”

“She waved from our ships on the briny foam and now they’ve about quit waving her back here at home.”

“In her own good land she’s been abused. She’s been burned, dishonored, denied, refused.”

“And the government for which she stands is scandalized throughout the land. And she’s getting threadbare and she’s wearing thin.”

“But she’s in good shape for the shape she’s in. And I believe she can take a whole lot more.”

“So we raise her up every morning. We take her down every night. We don’t let her touch the ground. And we fold her up just right.”

“On second thought, I do like to brag. ‘Cause I’m mighty proud of that ragged old flag!”

These days we’ve seen a resurgence of pride in our nation’s flag. We see them hanging from doorposts and poles in the yards around our town. We fly the flag from our cars and businesses. We see the flag on the sides of our highways and overpasses. Thank God we live in America, where we know we are free. Thank God we have a flag we can be proud of! May God continue to bless our land; the land of the free; the home of the brave.

Dr. John M. Brannon has been a United Methodist minister for twenty-two years and has served appointments in Weoka, Pike Road , Atmore and Troy , all in South and Central Alabama. He is the founder of Grace and Peace Ministries.