Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my grandfather. I remember walking through the mountains listening to him tell stories about his service in the U. S. Army. He often reminisced of a small boy who would approach him on the streets of Europe asking for food. My grandfather’s chest would swell with pride and his eyes with tears as he talked about giving the boy his food rations. The stories of my grandfather were not of self-pride and gratification, but more about his pride of being an American and his service to his country.
A few weeks ago, as I drove through North Carolina in what used to be the furniture capital of the world; I noticed cranes with wrecking balls tearing down factories where once people worked. Driving though Chattanooga Tennessee you see graffiti on the walls of old factories where once people went to work with pride. As a teenager I can remember standing on the streets of New York City and looking down at a manhole cover which read “Hoe Foundry, Middlesboro Kentucky.” I went to church with the Hoe family—I knew them. As I stood on that manhole cover, I remember being filled with pride as I realized this piece of iron came from my hometown and I knew the men who forged it. As an adult living in Knoxville, Tennessee the manhole covers in my neighborhood were made in China.
I encourage you to take notice of the number of flagpoles in your neighborhood and town. I find it concerning how many flagpoles fly a tattered flag or stand empty. The most disturbing flagless pole I have noticed stands in front of the National Guard Armory in Jefferson City, Tennessee. It is a dishonor to the men and women who sacrifice daily and have given their lives for the freedoms we often take for granted, for a National Guard Armory not to fly our flag.
What does our flag and patriotism have to do with our health? The United States unemployment rate is at a 25 year high. We stand by and watch wrecking balls tear down factories as graffiti artist disgrace and vandalize the remnants of what once stood for American prosperity and opportunity. Is it any wonder doctors in a major hospital in Boston report that the percentage of children 3 and younger who are underweight increased from 12% in 2007 to 18% in 2010. According to the same article: “The percentage of families with children who failed to secure adequate food monthly, increased from 18% to 28% during the same period” (Boston Globe).
Today it is hungry children—tomorrow a hungry nation. The pride of our grandfather’s erode like tattered factories and faded flags, and go unnoticed till once they are gone. During the Labor Day celebration, I encourage you to fly our flag with pride.
Healthy patriotism—may not cure hunger, but the hunger for patriotism may starve a nation!
Howard Baker, RN BSN
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