My dad turned 94 years old this past November. Born in 1926, he was only 18 years old when on June 8th, 1944 (D-Day Plus two) he found himself on the beaches of Normandy, France. He made it all the way through to the Battle of the Bulge, the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II.

Additionally, my grandmother’s only son, my mother’s only brother, Harrison Bailey of Lawrence, MA, came home in a coffin draped with the American Flag. His burial flag was presented to our family on behalf of the President of the United States and the Chief of Army Operations as a symbol of appreciation for his honorable service and sacrifice made in service to our country.

At an early age, my parents and grandparents instilled in me that love of God, country and respect for others, hard work and sacrifice is what makes this nation great. The American flag is a symbol of this great country. It is a symbol of freedom and sacrifice. I now have possession of that 48-star, American flag, that draped my uncle Harrison’s coffin. I keep it in a place of honor as a reminder to my children of the freedom we inherited. It is our sacred treasure. It is a reminder of the immeasurable cost of our freedom that many American families paid.

June 14th is the birth date of our nation’s flag, adopted in 1777 by a resolution of the Second Continental Congress. This is the day we set aside to educate and remind others of what the American flag represents and what it means to us personally. There are many books written about “our flag.” If I had to pick just one book, it would be “Flags of our Fathers” by James Bradly. Just talk to any veteran and close your eyes. Their personal stories of sacrifice are the thread that is woven into the Red, White and Blue.

Before I had the privilege of hoisting the “Morning Colors” aboard my first Submarine, my Chief made sure I understood what the Colors represented. The Red stripe in our Flag symbolized the Honor, Courage and Sacrifice made by our Country’s Great Defenders of Freedom and the White made more pure by the motives that impelled them. The constellation of Stars represents the fifty individual states governed by one Constitution. The canton of blue signifies the loyalty and unity of our citizens indivisible with Liberty and Justice for All.

When I look at Old Glory freely waving in the wind, I see my dad, uncle and all those who made the sacrifice necessary to secure our freedom. I see Americans from all walks of life, male, female, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, farmers, city slickers, white, black, brown, red and yellow — these are all Americans defending freedom.

At VNOC, we all respect and honor all Americans fighting for their freedom….

Ed Mitchell, VNOC Executive Director