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Flag Day 2011: The day we lost our flag

Posted Wednesday, June 15, 2011, at 8:27 AM

Guest Columnist

Flag Day was an important part of my youthful memories. In our home, we regularly displayed a large American flag on the porch of our home in Kansas City.

My dad served in the U.S. Navy during World War I. After his discharge, he purchased a home in Kansas City and became an employee of Union Station. A few years later, he considered marriage and a family since he had a house that could become a home. Soon he had a wife and three children.

Dad died on Jan. 11, 1944, and I became the provider of our family. I dropped out of high school and later did some special home studies, so I could graduate with my class. When it became apparent that I would not be deferred from military duty, I considered enlisting in the U.S. Air Force or the U.S. Navy. I chose the Navy.

My six month training was shortened, and I was asked to be part of a crew replacement for ships in the South Pacific. My first sea-going stop was in Port Moresby, New Guinea. I was taught wherever the U.S. Flag was flown there was the assurance of freedom and growth opportunities in human dignity.

My first assignment was to assist in a search for some Japanese who inhabited part of the island and who were suspected of raiding Port Moresby and stealing supplies from our canteen. We were organized to help the Japanese retreat further away from Port Moresby.

During this pursuit, I was soon aware I might no longer see any of my friends or comrades. I faced the thought I might die separated from family and comrades on that lonely island. Who then would care for my family?

I retreated from this search and returned to our base.

But at the base I noticed the American flag was missing. I wondered, does this mean the Japanese have returned and recaptured Port Moresby?

Then I noticed some normal sailor activity, and soon I explained how I had been separated from my guys, and I was then reassigned to help look for the American flag.

A few hours later we found it, and we learned a 10-year-old boy had climbed the flag pole and taken the flag to an area where he would use it as a blanket and take a nap.

This discovery increased our awareness of their extreme poverty and prompted many sailors to check their sea bags and make a private clothing donation.

Living under the flag of freedom often challenges us to share with those who are less fortunate.

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Various members of the community, current or past residents, occasionally submit essays recalling the people, places and events of the past. We'll post them here. Also, reminisces sometimes emerge in other web forums. This will be a place those conversations can continue.
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