A Flag of Any Size

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    Misterstan
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    Posts: 339
    (6/28/01 1:39:21 pm)
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    I am reading a new book titled "Chicken Soup for the Veteran's Soul". It is a book of short stories from veterans of all wars that will "Stir the Pride and Honor the Courage of Our Veterans".

    Since it is close to the Fourth of July and nothing represents the day more than the American flag, I have reproduced one of the stories from the book about this subject to share with you. Enjoy!

    Stan Lambert
    St. Clair Shores, Michigan
    -----------------------------------------------------------

    A Flag of Any Size

    Frank Havlik leaned against the wet brick of the Seventh Avenue firehouse and lit a filtered Camel. Frank was one of a group of middle-aged fathers and husbands living in Hudson, New York, who unofficially gathered every Saturday to debate and philosophize. Today, conversations drifted from weather to politics to war.

    The war in the summer of 1968 was in Vietnam. Frank’s only son, John Martin Havlik, whom they called Marty, had enlisted six months earlier and was serving his first tour in the jungle. Marty’s mother had begged him not to go, and his four younger sisters had all cried the day he left home. The family had already lost a neighbor to the conflict thousands of miles away, but Marty was not deterred. He felt it was his duty as an American to help the less fortunate – a sense of duty Frank had instilled in him at an early age. Frank was proud of his son and respected his decision to enlist.

    “How’s Marty?” asked one of the men.

    “He seems to be all right. We just got a letter this week,” Frank replied.

    Frank had already read the letter a dozen times. In the back of Frank’s mind, a constant worry for his son pulled at him, so reading about Marty’s exploits, no matter how dangerous, was always comforting. Maybe it was simply knowing Marty was alive and well at the time the letter was written.

    Frank abbreviated a story from his son’s latest letter for his listeners. “He complains there isn’t enough to drink and that it’s too damn hot. After being in the swamps for a few weeks, he was issued a few canteens of water to shower with, but he decided to drink it instead.”

    The Men all laughed. Most had known Marty since his baptism.

    “I would sure hate to be bunking next to him,” one man called out.

    “Especially if he smells like his father.” Another man remarked.

    Frank crushed out his cigarette on the sidewalk. His friends could always make him laugh and forget about his worries – at least temporarily.

    As the conversation wound down, the men noticed they were not alone on Seventh Avenue. The nice weather had drawn a crowd to the park across the street, where one man, who was probably only a few years older than Marty, carried a megaphone and seemed to be leading the gathering.

    “How many more must die?” the man with the megaphone shouted. “What are they dying for?”

    Hudson was not a big town. The men often joked, “You’d have to quadruple the population of the town just to fill up Yankee Stadium.” But like many American towns that summer, Hudson had its own Vietnam protests.

    Frank had seen these types of unscheduled rallies before. They mostly consisted of bored teenagers yelling, singing or praying. There was never any threat of violence. Today, however, looked to be different. Frank did not recognize the man with the megaphone. His tall, lanky body and bright red hair would have been easy to remember. The stranger was new to Hudson but not new to protests. He was an electrifying speaker. Soon the crowd was motivated, yelling to a beat and throwing their fists in the air in unison. Frank could not remember a rally ever being so loud. He felt the hair on his arm raise. Standing where they were - just across the street – the men by the firehouse could not help but watch.

    “This country is sending its sons to die,” the stranger shouted. The crowd agreed with a chorus of boos and obscenities. At the height of the excitement, the leader grabbed a small American flag that was nearby and pulled it out of the ground. It was the kind of flag people line their driveways with on the Fourth of July or place in honor at a tombstone. It was not the six-foot hand-stitched version of Old Glory, but it was an American flag nonetheless. The man held up the small flag and held a lighter flame near its edge.

    None of the men had noticed Frank leave the firehouse. But, suddenly, he was there, next to the lighter-toting protester. Without a moment of hesitation, Frank grabbed the flag out of the stranger’s hand.

    Frank Havlik, son of a Czech immigrant, veteran of World War II and father of an American soldier serving in Vietnam, did not lecture the young man. He simply took the flag and returned with it to his spot, where he again leaned against the firehouse. He did not want to break up the protest; they were Americans, exercising their rights. Frank only wanted to protect the flag he had fought for in France and that his son was fighting for now, in Vietnam.

    The chanting ceased, and the fists were lowered. Eyes darted back and forth between Frank and the red-haired stranger like an audience at Wimbledon. Neither made a move. Five minutes passed before everyone began to realize there would not be a fight. There would not be a martyr – or a bully. A man with long hair from the protesters’ group broke the silence with the strum of a guitar. The tense moment passed, replaced by the sound of voices singing antiwar songs. Onlookers began to disperse. The red-haired stranger, no longer the leader, became a participant and joined the peaceful demonstration.

    The men at the firehouse resumed their smoking and philosophizing, but no one commented on Frank’s actions. Frank held on to the flag; he planned to put it back after the park was empty.

    When the singing was done, the would-be flag burner crossed the street and approached the firehouse. The men sitting on the steps started to stand, ready to defend their own, but when they saw the protester’s face, they knew his approach was a white flag.

    “I would like to put the flag back in the park,” was all the young man said.

    Frank handed over the small vinyl flag. “Thank you,” he replied quietly.

    Frank’s story spread quickly. A few days later, the Hudson newspaper ran an article about the incident and included a picture of Frank with an American flag. Marty’s sister clipped the article and picture and sent them to her brother in Vietnam.

    The letter containing the article arrived in early fall. Marty slipped it and a short note out of the envelope. The picture of Frank and the flag immediately caught his attention. He read the article three times in a matter of minutes.

    Marty shared the article with a few buddies, who told others, and soon all the soldiers in Marty’s company had heard about Marty’s father and the flag.

    Frank’s act was a simple one, but it affected the young soldiers deeply. They had heard many stories of protests and riots in the States. They were even told not to wear their uniform home because of the negative attention it might bring. But the story of Frank saving one small flag made them realize some civilians supported them.

    Marty carried the article in his helmet liner with his cigarettes for the remainder of his time in Vietnam. His father was not an articulate or emotional man, but the story reinforced what Marty already knew: Frank was proud of him and would always be behind him.

    Stacy Havlik McAnulty





    Edited by: Misterstan at: 6/29/01 9:48:13 am

    Genog
    Moderator
    Posts: 121
    (6/28/01 3:00:20 pm)
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    Beautiful and "God Bless The USA"
    Geno G

    homer4
    Moderator
    Posts: 1019
    (6/28/01 4:05:22 pm)
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    Timely post Stan...what with the Fourth soon here.
    ...and two hard boiled eggs.

    Mithrandir
    V.I.P. Member
    Posts: 94
    (6/29/01 3:04:30 pm)
    | Del Re: A Flag of Any Size
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    A truly great story....... and I present this one as a continuation for your approval and thoughts....

    ===============
    July 4th 1968, somewhere in the upper highlands…..I Corp… temporary LZ… name unknown….

    Came in today to get documents and drop off stuff…our First shirt is with me today….. not a normal trip for him…… but it is probably good that even he gets out once in a while…..he has paper bags everywhere.... the chop is full of them......he says that he has work to do today... I do not question him...

    Seems that there has been a little action in the last few days……

    Seems the NVA have been using this area for an artillery range…..

    The ground all around is churned up….the rains at night have made it muddy and all but impassable….

    And then the daytime sun is baking the mud and everything stinks…….

    The flag that is displayed over this LZ has many cuts and tears in it…… it is a small flag… one like I carry with me… you know… no more than 18 inches by 10 inches……not a normal 3 foot by 5 foot at all….

    The marines here have repaired it time and time again…. but they refused to take it down……

    While I chat with some guys about the stuff I have to pick up… the First shirt make a comment about that flag….

    He says “It should be removed…. it is a disgrace to leave it that way…..”

    Several 16’s suddenly lock down!!!!!

    Silence is now deafening……

    The First shirt continues… and now his voice can be heard not just next to this tent…. but in the entire compound……”That flag needs to be taken down…… you should be ashamed of yourselves for letting that rag fly…. now go get your first shirt!! “ he demands…. and a very angry looking Sgt. stands to go get his first shirt…..

    The tension is unbearable…. I will not move……and I calmly but very quietly tell my guys to sit and say nothing…..

    The Sgt. comes back with one of the largest angriest Marines I have ever encountered… he yells…. NO …HE BELLOWS “What’s this shit about taking our flag down”!!?

    He stays nose to nose with our First Shirt…. an image of two Titans about to face off crosses my mind…

    My First Shirt says,….. “That flag is torn, cut, frayed and generally a piece of shit and you WILL have it taken down…. NOW!!.”

    Everyone….Eagles and Marines alike are trying to get as close the ground as they can so as to not be struck by the lighting and fire balls they except to occur soon…..and before the earth moved and the flames of hell walked on earth he continues….

    “And replace it with this”… and then he hands the Marine a paper bag……

    The Marine first shirt reaches into the bag and pulls out…… a fresh, new American flag….. not just a 3 by 5 flag …..one of those 6 by 8 foot ones…….

    The smile on that Marines face cannot be described here….. and after he turns it over in his hands several times.. he looks around and says to no one in particular…. “WELL!!!!, get this up…. now!!”

    And twenty Marines jump up as one.. some are removing the old flag… some are getting a new pole and some are connecting the ropes and clips………

    The pole is up , if you want to call it that… it was a twenty or twenty five foot piece of water pipe…..and they start to bring the new flag up the pole…..

    The Marine First Shirt Bellows “ATTENTION”… and every soldier and marine at that LZ as far as the eye can see is on their feet at full attention….

    No one issued the “Present Arms” command…… it is done without one single word… there is no need for it…..

    As the little ceremony ends…. we turned and got on our ride back……no other words were said……

    And as our chop lifts off and turns toward our camp…. we see that Marine First Shirt….. standing at the edge of the PCP at attention and saluting as we leave……








    out....

    Edited by: Mithrandir at: 6/29/01 4:39:14 pm

    Tac401
    Administrator
    Posts: 913
    (6/29/01 4:08:08 pm)
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    ezSupporter
    Re: A Flag of Any Size
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    Exellent story Mith!

    Good to see you back on board!

    JD
    The Firearms Forum Vietnam Memories Bulletin Board Contact Administrator

    106RR196LIB
    V.I.P. Member
    Posts: 170
    (6/29/01 5:02:35 pm)
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    Thank You Stan L & Mith
    Mike H

    homer4
    Moderator
    Posts: 1029
    (6/29/01 6:48:18 pm)
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    Have at it Mith!!!...been missin your butt round Camp here.

    "A cold one for ya at the Lounge...in fact a cold one for all the FNG's about here of late".

    ...Thumbs thru his wallet...11...12...13..."I should have enough" having just received his first weeks pay in the Public Relations Dept for the State of Maryland.

    ...finds another "fin"...17 or 18...and yet another...uh!... 20uh! 20uh! Dang !, hate countin by 5's.

    "Aw Nuts!"..."Drinks on the House!", he dclares...Geno leans over and remarks...Homer...I'd change that to "A round for the House" bud!, don't think Ole JD would care for that"

    "Hmmm!, Uh!, well how much yougot Genooooooo...Hey!, Where ya goinnnnn"

    Geez!...oh well, guess I'll go wake up Stan.
    ...and two hard boiled eggs.

    hope6970
    Moderator
    Posts: 468
    (6/29/01 7:01:41 pm)
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    Gee Homer, thought I was going to have to wait around all day before I could make a post. I didn't want to get in your way of spending all that money.... lol

    Enjoyed that Mith. Good to see you back.

    nighthawk
    Member
    Posts: 59
    (6/29/01 8:47:49 pm)
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    Stan and Mith,,,excellent stories,,and as said before,,great timing,,

    now,,did some one say something about a free drink???

    (last time I turned down a free drink was in 1959,,and my dad slaped me silly!!)

    mt pari
    Moderator
    Posts: 85
    (7/1/01 12:39:36 am)
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    Stan,

    Great story, I will buy the book tomorrow..loved the pic too.

    Mith, truly enjoyed your story too.

    Thanks to the both of you..

    Pari

    LarryJK
    Senior Chief Moderator III
    Posts: 299
    (7/1/01 7:29:12 pm)
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    As I was searching for something on the "salute" post I found this poem about the flag and thought it was fitting for the 4th coming up. I found this at the same site I found the "Memorial".


    Toast to the Flag

    Here's to the red of it -
    There's not a thread of it,
    No, nor a shred of it
    In all the spread of it
    From foot to head.
    But heroes bled for it,
    Faced steel and lead for it,
    Precious blood shed for it,
    Bathing it red!

    Here's to the white of it -
    Thrilled by the sight of it.
    Who knows the right of it,
    But feels the might of it
    Through day and night?
    Womanhood's care for it
    Made manhood dare for it.
    Purity's prayer for it
    Keeps it so white.

    Here's to the blue of it -
    Beauteous view of it,
    Heavenly hue of it,
    Star-spangled dew of it
    Constant and true.
    Diadems gleam for it,
    States stand supreme for it,
    Liberty's beam for it
    Brightens the blue!

    Here's to the whole of it -
    Stars, stripes and pole of it.
    Body and soul of it,
    O, and the roll of it,
    Sun shining through.
    Hearts in accord for it,
    Thanking the Lord for it,
    Red, White and Blue!


    Author Unknown



    Misterstan
    Moderator
    Posts: 353
    (7/2/01 11:10:41 am)
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    "Feels the might of it", indeed!



    Stan Lambert
    St. Clair Shores, Michigan

    Edited by: Misterstan at: 7/2/01 12:16:27 pm

    mt pari
    Moderator
    Posts: 94
    (7/2/01 11:28:11 am)
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    I have been thinking quite a bit about the picture of the little boy holding the flag you posted Stan, it has really touched me as the reality of all our vets.. he is, who all of you were at that point in your own lives, so filled with innocence and joy..life and cloices were simple...

    We do have much to be proud of in our country, think of all the children in our world today that wake to death, fear and sorrow. Our vets have spared our country of that horror here..

    Sadly, with all the freedoms we enjoy though, we do have children right here in this country that do wake to a form of that sorrow..hopefully they will be able to find and enjoy the freedoms our vets have allowed us..

    TShooters
    V.I.P. Member
    Posts: 349
    (7/5/01 9:44:25 pm)
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    Great posts, Misterstan and Mith. Great poem, LarryJK!

    I bought my first Chicken Soup for the Soul book because of a piece of prose in it called,
    "I Know He Goes to War". Had to pick this one by/for Veterans up at Sam's Club the other day. Thanks, Stan!

    Sharon

    hansenjim
    Member
    Posts: 19
    (7/7/01 4:57:33 pm)
    | Del Re: Salute to the Flag
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    I went to a Dodger game the night before the 4th. It has been many years since I have been to a public event such as this. As the national anthem played I stood with hand over heart as I learned to do as a young boy. Then, I didn't know what it meant.

    I looked around to see if others did the same. Of all those I could see, only one was doing the same.

    I looked at the flag and instantly remembered the one that flew in front of division headquarters alongside the yellow and red of the SVN flag. I was so struck at the time by the symbolism, I even took a picture focused on some concertina wire in the foregournd with the flag fuzzy in the background.

    Then I remembered when I came back from Vietnam and how cynical I was then. I went to an Angel game and when the national anthem played, tears unexpectedly came to my eyes. Then, I was somewhat sheepish about my display as it didn't seem to be much in vogue at the time. But I placed my hand over my heart anyway. Unlike as when I was a child, I knew what hand over heart means.

    And last Tuesday night, I was neither shy nor tearful --

    just proud.

    That what goes around, comes around.

    Bless this country even with all its flaws.

    Jim

    oneknight
    Moderator
    Posts: 1379
    (7/7/01 5:03:32 pm)
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    1959????? Could have only been moonshine. lol!
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