By Cherimie Crane Weatherford
I have written about silly things, mundane things, absurdly obvious and uniquely strange things. Humor with serious undertones and happiness with sad overtones have both found their way into my musings. Today I write to a man I have never met and I do so with naked sincerity and genuine respect.
During my scurrying about on a typical can’t-catch-up-Friday, I was reminded of what it is to be an American. My deep Southern roots have always been a source of pride as I often defend my simple ways, southern drawl and resilient demeanor with a shield of regional distinction. Suddenly in the midst of running errands and running in circles, one man silenced the jumbled thoughts promoting an unfamiliar calm.
Making my third trip of the morning across Beaufort’s McTeer bridge, I saw a gentleman sitting proudly, holding firmly the American flag. He wasn’t saying anything, wasn’t asking for, or paying any mind to, the attention being cast upon him by passers-by. His head faced stoically towards Parris Island as the flag whipped in the wind. The sun was gleaming through the red, white and blue like a halo of pride.
I was completely taken by the calmness, the contentment and the resounding silence exuding from this one man, on this one day, with just one flag. My reaction surprised even me. I didn’t question his motives or his mentality, instead I questioned my own. Driving in my foreign car, wearing my foreign heels there was an unmistakable shame. When was the last time I felt a sense of patriotism? Unity? Gratitude?
So enamored by this example of peace, I pulled to the side of the road. For just a few moments I closed my eyes and I remembered the photo of my grandfather in his dress blues, the funeral of my great grandfather and the unforgettable echo of the 21 Gun Salute. I thought of my cousin and how his life is on the line each and every day. The faces of the many young Marines, their wives, their children whom I have grown to love rushed through my mind like a family film. What about this one man sitting quietly would cause such a stir in an otherwise uneventful day?
Maybe it was the purity of action, the unexpected display or the fascination with the motivation behind such a choice. His choice, his action and his peaceful presentation had more impact on me than any other flag display I can recently recall. For this one time I noticed the flag, the colors, and the unmistakable symbol of bravery, freedom and sacrifice. As the flag whipped in the wind, I was reminded of what it is to be free, to be alive, and to be proud of a complete stranger.
I still have no idea who the gentleman was, his motivation or his station in life, but I would like to say thank you. Thank you for quietly and peacefully connecting me again to my country, my family and the heroes I brush by daily.