The velvet hand of patriotism

They say character is what you do when no one else is looking.

I believe the same is true of patriotism.

Yesterday, as the raucous Pulaski Polka Days parade frolicked in front of us, I turned and caught a more solemn scene taking place behind us.

Members of Rolling Thunder carefully retired the American flag that had ridden behind them on a symbolic casket down the parade route.

They did it patiently, properly, and with great respect in a quiet corner of a field reserved for parking.

It makes sense that a motorcycle group whose mission statement encourages, “patriotism and respect for all who defend our country,” would take the time to honor the flag. With each crisp fold, they pulled that flag taut and, without saying a word, spoke volumes about how you love a country properly, and honor the people who risk their lives to defend it.

We hear plenty of talk about patriotism at political conventions and passionate pronouncements of national pride.

But, I prefer the unheralded moments, unscripted and, but for the chance turning of my head and likewise focusing of my camera, undocumented.

It’s easy to wave a flag in this country.

It’s much more complicated to show it respect.

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I glanced back and saw this sweet ceremony taking place in a field behind the parade.
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I like the crisp folds and the way people stopped what they were doing when they saw what was happening.
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They did it for the flag and what it represented. They didn’t know anyone was taking pictures.
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But I really wanted to document the proper way to retire a flag…
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…and patriotism’s thundering, velvet hand.
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And then this happened.

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