I pray regularly for God to restore respect for our military, our flag and for a strong sense of patriotism for our country. There were several events in my life that embedded these strong feelings in me.
About three weeks after my eighth birthday, my father and mother gathered my two brothers, myself and my younger sister around the radio to listen to President Franklin D. Roosevelt discuss the bombing of Pearl Harbor. That was the beginning of many events in my life that focused on the freedom that our flag represents and all the people who have sacrificed to maintain that freedom.
Dad told us about the threat to our freedom and how he was going to fight to save us from our enemies, even if that meant sacrificing his life. He tried to join the military, but because he was 44 years old with four children, the military wouldn’t take him. From that day on, our family did whatever we could to help the war effort. After school we would go to the city dump near where we lived in Indianapolis and salvaged tin cans and other scrap metal and took it to school where we had a continuous metal drives. We saved razor blades to use in anti-personnel bombs. We even pulled up a few of our neighbor’s lightning rods — anything that could be melted down and reused to make military equipment.
I remember learning reading, geography and mathematics from reading the newspaper accounts where the battles were taking place in Europe and the Far East, and the number of allied and enemy dead. I remember saving my nickels and dimes until I got $18.75 so I could go to school and buy a $25 war bond. I remember all the rationing of food, gasoline, tires and lots of other items so that our military would have what it needed. I remember the stars in the front window of houses to show the number of people from that family serving in the military — gold stars for those who had died and other colors to indicate other activities.
One Sunday as we headed to church in our 1939 DeSoto, my dad went out of the way to show us a house that had five stars in the window. I don’t remember the colors of the stars, but I do remember Dad stopping the car in the middle of the street to make sure we understood how hard it must be for the persons living there. It was almost like Mom and Dad reached out right there in the middle of the street, and put their arms around those people they didn’t even know in order to share their grief.
I remember seeing prisoners of war from Camp Atterbury that were hauled up to Lilly Paint Co. near my house to work in the factory. I learned the difference between freedom and captivity that Dad told us about by watching our soldiers guarding the prisoners.
Before starting class each day, we said the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag. We had a time of silent prayer and prayed together for our servicemen and women. We sang “God Bless America” and the “Star Spangled Banner.” I think it was better that way. I remember having a part of the national celebration after V-E Day (Victory in Europe) and V-J Day (Victory over Japan) that ended this terrible war.
In 1954 I was serving as a young airman at Ashiya Air Force Base in Japan — the closest base to Korea on Kyshu, the southern island of Japan. I remember digging air raid shelters and filling sand bags to build bunkers. I even thought about the fact that I could end up being one of those gold stars in my mother’s window.
June 14, 1984, was Flag Day. I sat near the front of the First Baptist Church in Columbus, and there in front of me was the flag-draped casket of my oldest son, Tim Curry, who died four days earlier while serving in the U.S. Army. I remember what he looked like in his uniform. I remember the funeral sermon: “Be all you can be, in the Army.” I remember after the service following the casket down the aisle to the back of the church. I remember seeing the hurt in Tim’s friends’ eyes as they sat there sobbing. I remember going outside the church and noticing that all the usual funeral flags had been replaced with American flags. I remember the sheriff’s deputy who was directing traffic at 25th Street and Marr Road salute as we passed by.
I remember looking in the rearview mirror as we wound our way to Garland Brook Cemetery, and it seemed I could see flags back there for miles. I remember a Columbus Police Department officer blocking Gladstone Avenue, getting out of his car and saluting as we passed by. I was so emotional; I couldn’t help but salute right back. I remember hearing the rifle blasts as the soldiers from Fort Harrison gave my son his final salute. I remember the mournful sound of the bugler’s taps. I remember watching two young soldiers carefully and lovingly fold the flag that had covered Tim’s casket. One of them handed it to my wife Carolyn. She told them to give it to me. I took it and handed it to my daughter, Kim. I remember her holding that flag to her breast just the way she holds her grandchildren today.
Folks, my emotions run high when it comes to our American flag, those serving in the U.S. military and the thousands of wounded warriors. Whenever I see one of our military people, I try to make it a point to thank them for their service. It would be great if we all showed our support for them in the same way.
As Lee Greenwood says so well in his song: “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me. And I’ll gladly stand up next to you, and defend her still today. ’Cause there ain’t no doubt, I love this land, God bless the U.S.A.”
Normand D. Curry served as judge of Bartholomew Superior Court II, and as a senior judge for a total of 26 years. He is now retired. His son Tim died in a vehicle accident June 10, 1984, while serving in the U.S. Army at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
Today is Flag Day, which commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States of America, which occurred on June 14, 1777. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day. In August 1949, National Flag Day was established by Congress.