Like all other mornings, this old veteran of WWII, attached and raised the Stars and Stripes
in his backyard in the City of Albuquerque. It is prominently displayed for all who drive the Ventana West Parkway between
the streets of Paseo Del Norte and Irving. A simple setting; just an old man in his eighties and a new American Flag
raised on a new flag pole. The old man has an affinity for the flag of his country, for he is an American, remembering
the patriotism of past wars and past years, when so many Americans had the courage and joy of flying Old Glory.
What has happened in the country of our birth, for today, so few flags are seen flying in the breeze. It is almost as
if we have forgotten the love of country and the Freedom which we are enjoying and have enjoyed through the decades. You will
note that I spell Freedom with a capital "F", always a capital "F" whenever I write that precious word, even in a simple note
to a friend.
Today we remember the men and women who fought for Freedom in World War Two who never lived
to return to the country of their birth, not only WWII but WWI, Korea, Viet Nam, the Gulf Wars, including the war against
Iraq and Afghanistan. If they had lived it is my earnest belief that each would be flying the Stars and Stripes today.
I am remembering my first friend to die in WWII. He is Emmit Bagwell, of the Army Air Corp, flight engineer and gunner
on a B-24 bomber of the 8th AF, flying out of a crude field in England to bomb the Germans in France and beyond. He
and all his flying companions on his four engined B-24 were blown to pieces when the ship exploded with its full load of 500
pound bombs. There wasn't enough left of them to send back home, and they cannot fly the American Flag, but in their
day they saluted the Flag and stood at attention whenever the Flag passed by. Had they lived to return, you can bet
they would be flying Old Glory today.
When the USS Indianapolis made that record run from California to Tinian to deliver the trigger
mechanism for the two atomic bombs which the 509th Composite Bomb Group dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there were 1098
officers and men aboard that great ship. Upon leaving Tinian, she set sail for Guam, but never reached Guam for a Japanese
submarine fired a torpedo into her hull, sinking her in just fourteen minutes. During that ordeal the Navy never knew
she had been hit so those who were still alive of the crew were alone on the Wide Pacific Ocean to fend for themselves.
They were accompanied by many sharks, and the final count of survivors days later showed 300 officers and men survived.
For the most part, the sharks ate 800 officers and men. I do not know their names, but you can bet that they would be
flying Old Glory today, had they lived to enjoy the Freedom for which they fought.
The writer was an airman in the Old Army Air Corps, but my heroes are the Marines who took
that sulphur Island, known as Iwo Jima in 1945. Seven thousand Marines died there on those black sands which their blood
turned red and 13,000 were wounded. The B-29's returning from bombing Japan had a place to land their crippled planes
on the air strip laid out on Iwo Jima, thanks to the brave efforts of the Marines, many of whom never returned to loved one
in the USA. Had they returned, they would be flying Old Glory, for as long as they lived! You can count of that!
They knew all about Freedom, honor, and country. It is said that soldiers know how to fight, but Marines know how to
die! You will also note that when this writer writes the word "Marines" it is always with a capital "M", for that's
how I feel toward Marines. When having an appointment at the VA Facility here in Albuquerque, or in any other city,
I always stop in the hallways to salute Marines. Many of them are much younger than I, nevertheless, they receive my
salute. Then I tell them of Iwo Jima and how the Marines fought and died there for that precious
commodity called Freedom.
There is a Marine, S/Sgt. Mark Graunke, of Dallas, Texas, who lost an arm, a leg, and an
eye in Fallujah, Iraq fighting for their Freedom. I do not know Mark, however, I have his name
and the fact of his great loss taped to my computer so that I am constantly reminded of the cost of Freedom. Freedom
has never been free and never shall be. The cost is shared by few men and women so that the many may enjoy the fruits
of Freedom. I bet Mark Graunke is flying the American Flag today. I feel that deep down in my heart. I feel
something else deep down in my heart today, and that is the love I have for my country, in spite of her short comings, and
her sins against Almighty God.
One of my good friends, Giff Ormes, who spent over twenty years in the USAF during several
wars, told me this week that in their new development on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi that the covenants speaks of "no flags".
He flies one anyway, and so would I. It's my right as an American citizen.
So, today is Memorial Day in our land. I shall sit on the patio and view the
flag at half-mast, in memory of those who gave their lives for the Freedom which I enjoy. Pull up a chair and join me!
C. Douglas Caffey