The old man who will never be forgotten
This past Easter Sunday I was attending mass at a local church. It was nothing out of the ordinary. Crowds of people entered the church, most of whom probably only show up to church on the major Christian holidays.
Then there was an older man, probably in his 80’s who sat by himself right in the seat in front of me. He was frail, and just looked around to see who else he may know who was at the church, giving a slight nod and a weak smile if he made eye contact with someone.
I then noticed his jacket had a POW MIA patch. It got me thinking about the story of this gentleman and where he came from and where he is now. This was a gentleman who had been through war, probably had a family, and now, on Easter Sunday he is sitting by himself in the church.
It was then towards the end of mass when the older man turned towards me and handed my uncle something that may have represented a medal of some sort in the shape of a star in a little bag. My uncle looked at it quickly and then tried to give it back to the older gentleman as if he thought the gentleman was just showing him. The older gentleman then waved his hand without saying a word as to say “no, you keep it. It’s for you.”
I just kept thinking of what it could have represented. Then about 5 minutes later, the older gentleman looked over at me and gave me something similar. It was a star of stitched fabric. On the back, was a small piece of paper. This piece of paper stopped me right in my tracks. It said:
I am a part of our American Flag. I have flown over a home in the U.S.A. I can no longer fly. The Sun and Winds have caused me to become tattered and torn. Please carry me as a reminder that you are not forgotten.
After mass ended the gentleman told my Uncle and I that he was a POW when he was active in the military. He now volunteers as a Pease Greeter down at Pease Air Force Base. Pease Greeters meet incoming military planes when they land to refuel at the base. They are there as a welcoming committee to show their appreciation and gratitude for what the soldiers are doing for their country. This older gentleman tries to give these to all of the soldiers, not to only tell them to remember their flag, but to remind them that they too are not forgotten by us in our country.
It has now been a few days, and I have this in my car dashboard so I see it every time I get into the car as a solid reminder of the men and women overseas who we do not think about every day. We only remember them when we hear about success and tragedy that they fight for every day away from their families.
In addition to the military reference, I also think there is a second reason why I like to keep this piece of flag in my car. It also serves as a reminder that we are each individually tattered and torn at some point or multiple points in our lives. There was a time that we stood strong and brave just like the American Flag. However even when we do sometimes feel like we hit rock bottom, remember that you are not forgotten. Remember that there are other people, such as this old gentleman sitting in front of me in church, who are here to be a support system to remind you that you are not forgotten.