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Learning to respect something bigger than yourself

Submitted by on Monday, 13 September 2010 No Comment

I was half-cajoling, half-dragging Boots to his brother’s soccer practice when Big Guy stopped me in my tracks.

It was 5 p.m., which meant we were late. It also meant it was time for the strains of “Retreat” to start echoing over the post’s loud speakers, notes readily audible from the soccer field.

Big Guy’s coach – a soldier, as are many of the coach’s here – immediately stopped and stood at attention, facing the direction of the music because you can’t see the flag from the soccer fields. His 6-year-old son stopped in his tracks, mimicking the pose. Big Guy stopped beside the other two, a perfect replica of his coach and his teammate.

He remained that way for the duration of the ceremony, and I was stunned. This is the kid who can’t sit still for 3.6 seconds without wiggling or twitching. Technically, he was in violation of protocol – he’s a civilian, so he’s supposed to put his hand over his heart, not stand at attention.

But I’m not about to let a technicality get in the way of a bigger lesson here. Just as I don’t care if he salutes or puts his hand over his heart when “The Star-Spangled Banner” plays before movies at the theater on post, what matters to me is that he’s paying attention and paying respect to something bigger than himself.

He’s not really old enough yet to know that he’s doing that, though we often have discussions about what makes America different. But at least those notions are being ingrained at an early age.

I like that he’s learning that he’s allowed to disagree with things that happen in his country, that he’s allowed to push leaders to change those things and, if they don’t, some smart people a very long time ago set up a way to peacefully change those leaders.

But at the same time, I love that he’s also learning that no matter how much you might disagree, you still respect the country, the system that allows you to disagree.

“Integrity, loyalty, respect – all the Army values are put into this detail every day,” a private once said about his time on the flag detail. “It’s definitely an honor and a privilege. There’s a lot of pride in being part of that tradition every day, especially knowing that other people don’t share the same freedoms that are represented in our flag.”

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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