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Thoughts For Memorial Day 2022

Austin Bay on

Four days a year a special American flag flew from a tall loblolly pine in my family's front yard.

Every Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and every Veterans Day, my father would get up early then wake me, my sisters and younger brother.

We would traipse into the front yard, yawning in Houston's early morning humidity, in summer standing barefoot on St. Augustine grass, on Veterans Day wearing shoes in November's cooler weather.

Then Dad would tie the flag to the rope, one of us would give the rope a pull, and the huge wall of red, white and blue cloth would rise and billow as it rose, the only sound a pulley 35 feet up the pine creaking with each tug.

Hands covered hearts and we'd salute. Two minutes later, we kids would head back to bed. Dad might get a cup of coffee then oil the lawn mower. By 10 o'clock the mower and I would be cutting grass below the flag.

I said the flag was special. The flag had 49 stars, which made it an oddity of sorts, but the fact it had draped my Grandfather Bay's casket made it a particularly significant treasure.

 

My grandfather died in San Antonio in 1960 and was buried at Fort Sam Houston a National Guard colonel, a veteran of two world wars and the on and off "Mexican border campaign" that ran from 1910 to 1916.

As an enlisted soldier in Company G, the Engineer Regiment, he participated in that border operation circa 1910 to 1911. I must have been 6 or 7 when my grandfather told me he saw a lot of Texas and Mexican desert, but he never saw Pancho Villa.

I didn't realize it at the time, but my father's flag-raising pageants were my first taste of veterans memorials. Our short front-yard ceremony was a very local Arlington.

We weren't simply remembering my grandfather. We were remembering the friends my grandfather lost in France in 1918. We were remembering the friends my father lost in Korea in 1951.

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