Letter to the editor: 'Breathes there a man'

It was one of the most impressive acts of patriotism I’ve ever seen, and it will never make the national news. It happened last year, right here in Brandon before a football game. I arrived a little late for the game, right as the VFW honor guard marched in the flags. Everyone in the stands was already standing, and I was by the concession stand, so rather than trying to find a seat, I stepped up to the fence and stood at attention for the presentation of the flag and the playing of the National Anthem. I admit I was a little annoyed, because all around me were kids getting concessions and making noise, just being kids. I didn’t expect anyone to notice what was happening on the football field. 
What happened next floored me. When the crowd in the stands hushed for the anthem, so did everyone around me. I want to make it clear they didn’t do this because of my example or because I turned around and glared at them until they were silent or anything like that. The young people around me, all of them, without exception, became still, and with hands on hearts all looked at the flag during the National Anthem. And that’s not all. After the Anthem, they remained this way until the flags were retired completely all the way off the field, without a single adult telling them to do it. I was so proud of my town at the moment, the kids and the parents that taught them that kind of respect, that I’m not ashamed to say my eyes got a little watery. Was it something that they learned during our Loyalty Day parades? Did they learn it in school? Wherever they learned it, I wish the eyes of America could have seen it.  
November is the month where we remember our veterans, and our youth have already made Veteran’s Day cards and will be distributing them with their thanks for their service to the Veterans who live at Helping Hand. I’m proud of our youth for that display of thanks and patriotism also. I have to believe that kind of behavior is learned. It doesn’t come naturally for anyone to be patriotic or thankful to those who make sacrifices. It has to be taught, and modeled first. It is a glorious thing to see when it happens, because when Christians do it, it is a reflection of our Christian faith as well. There isn’t a Bible verse that says “salute the flag,” because nations like Rome used something closer to modern banners than modern day flags. But it does say in 1 Peter 2:17, “Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.” 
Our country is suffering division like I have never seen before in my lifetime, and I don’t preach politics from the pulpit or from this “pulpit.” The flag controversy saddens me most of all, however, because it is a symptom of a nation that has forgotten to respect what is supposed to unite us. I respect your right to differ with me on this topic, and I recognize our country isn’t perfect. How can a nation made up of sinful people, as the Bible teaches we all are, be anything other than imperfect? I feel sorry for people who profess no allegiance to our flag or country. When I was a child I read a story that has stuck with me all of my life. It was a fictional story about a man named Philip Nolan, and he cursed the United States. As his punishment, he spent the rest of his life on a ship, never again allowed to see America. People used to know a poem quoted in this story, “The Man Without a Country.” It asked, “Breathes there a man with soul so dead, who never to himself has said, “This is my own, my native land?” 
My true homeland is heaven, I know that, and you also know that every Christian’s true “citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there “(Phil. 3:20.) But please do me a favor. Salute our flag this month, and thank a veteran for their part in your freedom. It just might make their eyes, and mine, water up with pride and joy. 
Pastor Dan Deardoff


The Brandon Valley Journal


The Brandon Valley Journal
1404 E. Cedar St.
Brandon, SD 57005
(605) 582-9999

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