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Young People … Our Greatest Resource

The Flag that Found Me (Dr. James Sutton)

My proudest moment to be an American came when I wasn’t even in America at the time.

It was 1969; I had taken a small group of sailors to a camp in East DaNang, South Vietnam. This was in I Corps; the enemy was close … and active. We were there to assist the First Radio Battalion of the Third Marine Amphibious Force. They were way undermanned and had worked themselves to the point of exhaustion.

We knew these guys; as sailors and marines we trained together in Florida as part of the Naval Security Group. The men I worked with there (one of them became my brother-in-law), and what we accomplished, saved many lives, and are among my most meaningful experiences … ever.

When it was time for our group to cycle back to Japan and let a group of sailors from the Philippines relieve us for a bit, I discovered that the marines did not have tickets to get us OUT of Vietnam, only IN. We had to wait for whatever hop we could catch. We hung around the airport long enough and looked miserable enough (which wasn’t difficult) until we finally caught a flight out on a medivac, a hospital plane full of wounded marines.

We landed for transfer in Okinawa. I checked on flights to Japan for myself and my men, and was told there was an American aircraft headed that way, but it was ready to take off. They radioed the plane and asked them to wait for us, then they shoved us out the door into the general direction of where the planes were and simply said, “Hurry!”

In the dark all airplanes look pretty much alike. We were running down the tarmac, toting our sea-bags, trying to find one aircraft among what looked like hundreds. We were half-lost and exhausted.

It was then that Something told me to look up. A spotlight, or some kind of light, was shining squarely on Old Glory, an American flag painted high on the tail of the craft that was our ride out of Okinawa.

It’s still difficult to put into it words, but the sight of that flag brought an immediate sense of calmness; I KNEW everything was going to be okay. We loaded quickly through the plane’s tail ramp. I made sure my men were taken care of, then buckled myself into a seat … and slept like a baby.

To this day, I cannot explain that light, other than to say it was a gift of Providence in a moment I needed it most, but I NEVER see our flag flying but that it doesn’t remind me of that night so long ago and of a small flag that seemed to find me.

God Bless America and all of our men and women in uniform who wear that same flag, OUR flag, on their shoulder. For them, may it always be a beacon of comfort and reassurance.###

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July 3, 2019 Posted by | Affirmation and Recognition, Communication, family, Human Interest, Inspirational, Integrity, patriotism, Resilience, Self-esteem, veterans | , , , | Leave a comment