And yet, I can't help but wonder about the apathy that seems to have crept into our patriotism over the generations. World Wars I and II saw huge support for our soldiers and tremendous displays of patriotism, not just in the displays of flags and such, but in tire drives and newspaper drives and more. Part of me wonders if it's because the current wars are "over there" and don't really affect daily life "over here". Regardless, a focus on and appreciation for our nation and those who defend it would be a wonderful thing, so this week I'm doing just that.
The following article appeared in Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion in July 2002, which was soon enough after 9/11 for people to still be paying attention. I think it bears repeating:
For Old Glory and Uncle Zozzie
by Kathryn Renner
Today, against a sky the color of a pale blue finch's breast, we will unfurl our flag and secure it near the front door just high enough so Old Glory will not brush the petunias below. As we look down our street, we will see other flags on fence posts, miniature versions stuck in flower buckets, and bright bunting swagged across mullioned windows. They symbolize pride and honor, and some stand for loved ones, their faces imprinted on our hearts. In our home, that face is Uncle Zozzie. The flag we display was draped over his casket when he died at the age of 99.
Uncle Zozzie, my great uncle, was the longest-surviving World War I veteran in Russellville, Kentucky. He was born Raleigh Thacker, but his boyhood nickname stuck, stubborn as the roots of a morning glory. His longevity made him a hero in Logan County. In one of our family scrapbooks, handed down to me, clippings from the News-Democrat & Leader and the Daily News relate how Zozzie shipped out on the U.S.S. Maine, then, after our victory, crossed the Atlantic six times aboard the passenger ship Troy to bring home war-torn soldiers. The sight of a devastated Europe made him feel hollow inside, he said.
But my memories of him are not of a soldier. I knew a genteel man with a soft Southern purr, full of "pleases" and "thank you, ma'ams" and eyes that twinkled when he described the glacial peaks of meringue on his wife's coconut cream pie.
As I watch his flag stir in the breeze, I wonder how his quiet soul would have dealt with the recent assaults on our freedom. Then, in my heart, I know. He would roll up his sleeves and take his station, whatever that might be, just like he did before. For me, Uncle Zozzie personifies that American spirit - a heart ferocious in its kindness, as well as its strength. I see it in his face in the news photo where he stands by a flag on the 75th anniversary of the WWI armistice, a commemorative medal pinned to the lapel of his gentlemanly white suit. He stares into the camera, a little awkward and shy - a feeble man now - but his veteran's pride shines through, sharp as a boot camp salute.
The photo of Zozzie that I love best is a close-up of his face inches from the cheek of my toddler son in 1985. He had traveled cross-country for what turned out to be his last visit with us. Haley's Comet shot through the sky that year; we watched together from our California patio, my son cozy on the lap of this old man who said, "Give me some sugar" instead of "Give me a kiss". Zozzie talked about lying on the grass near the Gaspar River in1910, his sisters nearby, pointing to the comet's blazing tail as it rocketed across the Kentucky heavens. "Never thought I'd see that again," he said.
But he did see it again. And our soldiers have been called again. So flags wave with renewed vigor, buffeted by wind, bleached by sun, yet steadfast as patriots. Ours flies in Uncle Zozzie's name - a name that brings honor to those who served and to those who fell like stars in a star-spangled sky.
What wonderful sentiments, and what a wonderful view of soldiers and flags and where our thoughts should turn - at least on the days set aside for such veneration: Flag Day, Veteran's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day for those of us in the states. All nations have such days, and all citizens could and should take part in celebrating not just the day, but those whose lives and works and sacrifices are the reasons for the day! Perhaps this week we could make a card and send it to a soldier or someone who is working to defend our freedom and/or make our lives better here at home...
Stamps: Close to My Heart Three Cheers; Ink: CTMHHoliday Red, Outdoor Denim, Ranger Tea Dye; Papers: CTMH Colonial White, Holiday Red, Outdoor Denim, Black; Accessories/tools: Stampin'Up! ticket corner punch
Here's Mr. Linky for this week: