Standing up for US


red_poppyIt’s cool to be patriotic again.

It hit me at last week’s Veterans Day observance in Veterans Memorial Auditorium at the Galvin Middle School.

I sensed that something was different when I walked in and saw the huge crowd, many of them with red poppies in their lapels.

And not a single safety pin in sight!


It turns out that most Americans actually do like their country and don’t appreciate seeing its symbols dragged through the mud.

Who knew?

I’ve been attending local Veterans Day observances since long before I started covering them for the Daily Item. I’m not patting myself on the back. I go for selfish reasons. I always leave feeling better than when I arrived.

This year’s ceremony was no different, except in one respect.

Over the years, I’ve heard some great speeches, but last Friday’s speech was the first one I can remember that got a standing ovation.

Keynote speaker John Bohling gave the crowd its money’s worth. Mr. Bohling spoke for nearly 30 minutes. He didn’t need any notes. You don’t need notes when you speak from the heart.

john_bohlingA US Army veteran, Bohling related stories of several soldiers that he had known as a way to illustrate the different kinds of sacrifices made by veterans. It was because of those soldiers’ sacrifices, Bohling said, that any disrespect for the United States and its symbols made him angry.

One example he cited is one that is familiar to any sports fan. Celebrity singers at major sporting events who bring their own interpretation of the National Anthem, performing it as if it were a rock and roll song or a country tune or soul music are clearly more interested in making it all about themselves than in doing the Anthem justice.

Then there’s the current fad of refusing to stand for the National Anthem or Pledge of Allegiance. Bohling cited the example of two Wakefield Memorial High School students who last week declined to stand for the morning Pledge of Allegiance.

flag_saluteSetting aside my amazement that the Pledge is actually still recited in schools, we know where the kids learned this act of “protest.” It comes from the likes of pampered professional athletes like Colin Kapernik.

A short time ago, Bohling’s metaphorical, old school description of how he would handle those who refuse to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance would have sent a portion of population scurrying for their Safe Space.

But the Veterans Day crowd was in its own safe space – a zone where you’re allowed to be patriotic, a place where it’s OK for a veteran to be outraged when the country he sacrificed so much for is profaned.

With all the anti-democracy demonstrations going on around the nation, it felt good to hear people say good things about their country and pay tribute to patriots.

Let’s hope it’s a trend.

[This column originally appeared in the November 17, 2016 Wakefield Daily Item.]

One Response to “Standing up for US”

  1. 1 Patricia Wheeler

    Was the safety pin symbolizing a “safe space” for a victim of prejudice an unpatriotic or disrespectful thing to do? I didn’t see it that way, maybe I’m just misinterpreting some of your words.

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