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Yesterday, our family toured the DC area by bus, which allowed us to see most of the sites we intended to visit on our trip. We made it to the Vietnam War memorial, where the First Mate found the name of a family friend, William Rowland (picture in extended entry), who gave his life for his country in June 1968. The tour took us through other inspiring and thought-provoking monuments, such as the World War II memorial, the FDR monument, and Arlington Cemetery, where we visited John Kennedy's gravesite and thousands of others.
We found all of these exhibits and remembrances remarkable. However, we found one particular display to resonate most with all of us, one that moved us the most. At the Smithsonian American History Museum, one of the newest exhibits greets visitors almost immediately upon entry. That is a three-story-long American flag -- a star-spangled banner with a story.
After the attack on the Pentagon on 9/11, the building had a huge, gaping hole in its side, a wound that matched the one our nation felt after the terrorist slaughter. The next day, a group of rescue workers and military personnel at the Pentagon got a garrison flag and draped it from the top of the building right over the cavernous maw. This flag told the terrorists that we would not allow them to scare us -- that America would not cut and run from this unthinkable attack. The flag remained in place for a month, reminding us and the world that we would rebuild, and then we would make sure that the people who thought they could cow us with senseless attacks would soon learn differently. A year after it made its appearance over the Pentagon, the flag came to the Smithsonian, with the dirt and grease of its exposure to the damage still part of it.
When we celebrate the Fourth today in our nation's capital, we will remember men like William Rowland, who gave a small gift to a little girl thirty-eight years ago, and gave the ultimate gift to his country shortly thereafter. We celebrate leaders like FDR, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, John Kennedy, and the thousands buried with him at Arlington who died to make men free. But mostly I will remember that flag that hung at the Pentagon on September 12th as the perfect encapsulation of American tenacity and fierce protectiveness of its liberty and freedom, and the defiance towards those who seek to make men slaves to tyranny and oppression.
Happy Independence Day to all of my wonderful friends at Captain's Quarters.
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