Over the last couple of weeks, there seems to be a controversy in the presidential campaign over expressions of patriotism. Senator Obama is being criticized for not wearing a flag lapel, and not putting his hand over his heart when reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. (Incidentally as we all know, H.R. Haldeman started the White House staff and Richard Nixon in wearing the flag lapel in the early 70s.) But is the symbolism more important than the actual act of patriotism?
What is really important is actually fighting for those who give you the freedom in which our patriotism is inspired by. Fighting for the veterans of not only the current conflict, but past wars as well. Making sure when they’re in battle that they have all the material and armor they need to protect themselves. If they become injured, they are entitled to the same service in which they gave this country, giving them the best hospital care and resources to deal with their injuries if they are long-lasting. And finally, making sure that soldiers like those who belong to the National Guard, have a job to come back to and a mortgage that’s not for overdue because they paid their service to their country. No veteran deserves to be on the street.
As a civil litigation paralegal, it was the highest privilege in my legal career to represent American heroes. Our firm represented American servicemen against Japanese corporations for slave labor and back wages. One of our clients was a gentleman named Frank Bigelow. A Seaman Second Class who was captured by the Japanese. Here is his testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 28, 2000. He lost a leg as a prisoner of war. Whenever I spoke to him, he always got to me. In a letter to him before his passing, I explained that he was America to me. When you read his testimony, you will get a sense of why I feel the way I do.
My patriotism is one of deeds, not of words or pins.