All gave some, Some gave all

I had the privilege to photograph a soldier’s homecoming last night and it was the perfect way to start Veterans Day.  Yes, I drove an hour and a half each way in the middle of the night to be there when he came home, but that’s nothing compared to the sacrifices he, his family and thousands of others who have served have paid.

We have a long history of service in our family, including my grandfather who served in WWII, my brother-in-law who put in 20 years with the Navy, his two sons who carry the torch in ROTC – one of whom will soon be attending Navy flight school, my retired Coastie hubby and his Pop who served as a Navy fighter pilot and performed several of the flight scenes for Top Gun!  And we have friends in just about every other branch of the military, as well.

It takes a different kind of person to serve.  I knew I wasn’t suited for military service, but I support those who do, regardless of the politics.  And I thank them, sincerely.  To me, they are the backbone of our country, not those who call the shots in DC.

America has many problems, and one of our biggest is forgetting our veterans.  They endure hardships and trauma in the name of our freedom and return changed in ways they can’t even explain.  Many are able to find their own way to cope with the help of friends and family, but unfortunately thousands don’t and end up suffering even more once they are home.  There are many programs out there to help, although they are often overwhelmed with demand and not enough resources.   So I encourage you to think about small things you could do to serve those who have served and are still serving for you.  They don’t expect a hand out, but they will truly appreciate the small things such as:

  • Visit a local veterans nursing home and talk with the residents.  You will be amazed at the stories they have to tell.
  • Invite a local military family to join your holiday celebrations.  Often times they are stationed far away from family and miss having a large group to gather with.
  • Cook a meal for those staying at a Fisher House.  They are often consumed with the details of their loved one’s treatment that they forget to take care of themselves.
  • Offer to babysit so an active duty member can an enjoy a little alone time with his or her spouse – or so that spouse of a deployed member can have a break from the constant demand of parenting solo.
  • Tackle a few home maintenance tasks for a disabled veteran who is unable to perform them.  But let him or her help if they want – it will make them feel useful and capable despite their injury.
  • Have a yard sale and donate the proceeds to programs like Wounded Warrior, Fisher House, Honor and Remember.  Even if it’s a small amount, it helps.
  • Help organize, fund raise or donate airline miles for local veterans to take an honor flight.  If you live in the areas of the memorials they visit offer to cook a meal for the group or host them if you have room.
  • Raise or help train a service dog for a veteran.  The programs that do this will support you in doing so.
  • Foster a single service member’s pet while they are deployed.  It will give them the peace of mind they need to focus on the tasks at hand.

These are just a few ideas.  You could also contact local organizations like the USO, VFW and VA to ask what specific needs might exist in your community. But perhaps the easiest thing to do is to thank active and retired military members and their families for their service when you see them in the community.  They may only briefly acknowledge your comment because they see their service as normal every day life, but I promise that taking the time to acknowledge them resonates on a deeper level and they do appreciate it.

Honoring Old Glory

The problem with short work weeks is that, well they’re short and therefore seem to go by that much faster! Dealing with our builder and having my truck in the shop or 3 days didn’t help either. I’ve had several items to write about this week and just haven’t had time to get them out of my head and on the screen! Now its Friday and I’m just getting around to sharing those ideas with you, so here we go.

Although we did a quick overnight visit to some friends in Seward, we spent the rest of our Memorial Day weekend working on things around the house, including installing a flag pole for the flag my Mother-In-Law got the hubs for his birthday… back in March.  Yeah, we’ve been a little busy…

We’d tried to by a bracket and pole at several retailers over the last few weeks only to find that you had to buy everything as a kit with the flag. Or you could buy just the bracket without the pole or flag. WTH?! So the hubs got creative and purchased a wooden broom handle, which he shaved down on one end to fit the bracket.

Pole

And Wa-La! We have a flag on our front porch, just in time to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.

Flag

Not respecting the flag is one of my top pet-peeves, so it’s no surprise that I grit my teeth every day when I drive past the flag that our neighbor put out and obviously forgot about some time ago. It’s faded, frayed and stuck around the pole it’s on. Plus there is no light on it at night. It disgusts me so much I couldn’t even bring myself to take a picture of it to show you how horrible it looks.

Unfortunately, there are people in our country who have never been taught how to respect the flag – like a previous co-worker who had no clue why it was would a bad thing to let the flag touch the ground when we were setting up for an event! Let’s just say I didn’t show extreme patience when correcting her. And now that we’ve entered the season of patriotic holidays I thought it would be helpful to share a few dos and don’ts on handling Old Glory.

Federal law stipulates many aspects of flag etiquette and the section of law that deals with the American Flag etiquette is referred to as the “Flag Code”. The basics of this code include the following guidelines:

  • The flag should be lighted at all times, either by sunlight or by an appropriate light source.
  • The flag should be flown in fair weather, unless the flag is designed for inclement weather use.
  • The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. It is flown upside down only as a distress signal.
  • The flag should not be used for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.
  • The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or halyard.
  • The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations.
  • The flag should never have any mark, insignia, letter, word, number, figure, or drawing of any kind placed on it, or attached to it.
  • The flag should never be used for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything. (This is super hard to abide by as a photographer, but I do!)
  • When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms. To store the flag it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously.
  • The flag should be cleaned and mended when necessary.
  • When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner.

For a more comprehensive set of flag etiquette rules, click here. Please make sure you honor the flag – and those who serve it – when using it in your decorations. And if you know someone who needs an introduction to the rules, or even a refresher, I hope you’ll share this post with them.