The world is your oyster!: A Folded-up Flag        

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My name is Heather.

I am 22 years old.

I am an East Coast girl
who also loves Utah.

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Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Folded-up Flag

Last Sunday, I went to a fireside of sorts at the Marriott Center. It was apart of the Freedom Days celebration, and featured Steve Young, Alex Boyet, Jenny Oaks Baker, Jenny Frogley, and more. It was one of the best firesides I have ever been to.

One of the parts that was most touching was when they sang "America the Beautiful" and honored two soldier boys from Orem who were recently killed in Iraq. These boys grew up in Utah and both graduated from Timpanogos High School. They died within a few days of each other.

While Alex Boyet and Jenny Frogley sang, a slideshow of the boys played on the TV's hanging from the ceiling. The mothers of the boys stood with a spotlight on them. Members of the ROTC folded up two flags, carefully, methodically. Finally, at the end, the mothers were presented with the flags. The first mother took the flag almost immediately and held it. The second mother didn't take the flag right away. The officer stood, holding out the flag, and she just looked at it. It seemed like he was talking to her, telling her to take it, and at the end of the song, she reached out and took it.

I watched the slideshow and felt myself get a little teary. I thought about my own brothers. The slideshow showed pictures of the boys when they were babies, pictures of them on camping trips, hanging out with their families, and in uniform with the other troops. It showed them in Iraq and in America. It showed them as people, and not just as soldiers.

I watched as the soldiers marched toward the mothers of these boys, folded the flag, handed it to the mothers. I was struck by the words that were left unsaid in these tragically sad moments. I think the soldiers bearing the flags knew what they were signing up for when they joined the Army. They knew that they might be asked to give their life for their country. They might have known the boys who died. It was by folding these flags so meticulously and standing rigidly straight that the soldiers showed respect for the late soldiers and sympathy for their families.

I considered what it would be like to be one of those mothers, what they were thinking. Their sons had only recently died. I'm sure that when you send a child off to war, you never think that they are going to be the one who dies in the defense of his country. You worry about it, but never actually believe that that will be your son. It was eye-opening and sad.

But another part of the fireside added more to my understanding. Michael Malarsie, a soldier who had been wounded and permanently blinded in Iraq, came forward during Steve Young's talk and answered a few questions. After he told us how he had been injured, Steve Young asked him if he had any regrets. The soldier considered his response carefully before saying,

"There have been so many blessings in my life since everything happened. It's been truly amazing." He mentioned how he would never have met his wife otherwise and said, "I would not change a single thing."

I had felt very sad when I thought about the young soldiers who had died, but this soldier was alive, and he had lost a great deal, as well. By firmly stating that he would not change a single thing about his time of service, he was expressing a view that American soldiers all seem to feel. They are passionate about their love for and dedication to America. They understand that they may be asked to sacrifice their eyesight, or their lives. They continue to serve because they believe in what they are doing.

I think the soldiers who died believed in America and were willing to die for it. And I think, that if they were able to speak to us like Michael Malarsie was, they would say the same thing, and they wouldn't change a single thing, either.

That attitude is really what I love about the soldiers, I think. It is an attitude that reminds me that patriotism = selflessness. I guess that is really what I love: selflessness. I am awed and inspired by it.

I'm so lucky to be an American :)

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