Flag Raising For Independence Day

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June 30, 2011 by David Gillaspie

July 4, 2011

What is your most important flag raising, your Iwo Jima?

For me, it was the Fort Ord parade grounds and my first flag raising in an Army uniform.

I’d been in uniform at a flag raising before, but it was a Boy Scout uniform.

The Army was different.

For starters, Drill Sergeants Easterling and Daybell warned the new recruits how to stand. You could tell who didn’t listen, but more on that later.

Since it was our first company flag raising, the leaders didn’t want us to make them look bad.

“Do not lock you knees while waiting for the flag,” was the main advice.

For most of the guys, locking knees meant nothing. They’d been standing jack-legged all their lives with no problem.

Trainees from Alabama to North Dakota already knew how to stand. You can’t tell a Texan to stand right, they’re born kicking.

They all learned the new way.

With warnings issued and threats recorded (“anyone in this platoon falls out, the rest will suffer”) we marched off to the main parade grounds early one morning.

I remember it being the second day up on the hill, which wasn’t very steep.

If anyone thought the flag raising meant the flagpole near the barracks, they found out differently passing it on the way down the hill.

Since it was 0′dark thirty, the size of the parade ground was hidden. As the sun came up we could see thousands of new recruits in the flag formation.

We stood in fear and respect of the events slowly unfolding around us, a ceremony of such torturous pace and precision it felt unending.

How slow?

By the first half hour you could see people in front of you drop because they locked their knees. The Drill Sergeants expected it and pounced on the fallen.

In what seemed like hours, I couldn’t feel my feet either. Leg shaking wasn’t allowed, neither was jumping up and down. We were in flag formation, not Zoomba formation. No one was going for the burn. My feet were so numb they could have been on fire and I wouldn’t have known.

Once the bugle sounded, the pace quickened.

Reveille took me back to Boy Scout camp and the notes Pat Casey blasted on his bugle. He knew all the calls. He was from my town, but belonged to another scout troop, the cool troop. Out of all the buglers, he was the champ.

The flag went up fast on Fort Ord. At the end of the day we marched back and stood while it came down.  It came down slow to the sounds of a beautiful horn.

Whenever I’ve heard bugle calls since, I think of Pat Casey; he died flying military jets, but his song carries in the wind. He might be the only pilot who could play taps better than the bugler at his funeral.

This July 4th, I’ll remember others whose spirits flow in the wind, and you will too.

Since history plays such a big part of DG’s B&B, I always promote continuing education.

I invited Professor Billy Joel to give his annual Fourth of July lecture titled ‘How The Power of Personality and Electronic Communication Changed The Face Of The Late Twentieth Century, Or We Didn’t Start The Fire:’

And a one, and a two…

Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio

Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe

Rosenbergs, H-Bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
Brando, “The King and I”, and “The Catcher in the Rye”

Eisenhower, vaccine, England’s got a new queen
Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye

CHORUS
We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Josef Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc

Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, Dacron
Dien Bien Phu Falls, Rock Around the Clock

Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn’s got a winning team
Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland

Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Khrushchev
Princess Grace, Peyton Place, Trouble in the Suez

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac
Sputnik, Zhou Enlai, Bridge On The River Kwai

Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California Baseball,
Starkweather homicide, Children of Thalidomide

Buddy Holly, Ben Hur, Space Monkey, Mafia
Hula Hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no-go

U2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy
Chubby Checker, Psycho, Belgians in the Congo

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Hemingway, Eichmann, Stranger in a Strange Land,
Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs invasion

Lawrence of Arabia, British Beatlemania
Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson

Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British Politician sex
J.F.K. blown away, what else do I have to say

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock

Begin, Reagan, Palestine, Terror on the airline
Ayatollah’s in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan

Wheel of Fortune, Sally Ride, heavy metal suicide
Foreign debts, homeless Vets, AIDS, Crack, Bernie Goetz

Hypodermics on the shores, China’s under martial law
Rock and Roller cola wars, I can’t take it anymore

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning since the world’s been turning.
We didn’t start the fire
But when we are gone
It will still burn on, and on, and on, and on…

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Mt. Suribachi

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