DEAR READERS: This moving piece has become something of a Fourth of July tradition:
Hello. Remember me? Some people call me Old Glory, others call me the Star-Spangled Banner, but whatever they call me, I am your flag, the flag of the United States of America.
Something has been bothering me, so I thought I might talk it over with you -- because it is about you and me.
I remember some time ago, people would line up on both sides of the street to watch the parade, and naturally I was leading every one, proudly waving in the breeze.
When your daddy saw me coming, he immediately removed his hat and placed it against his left shoulder so that his hand was directly over his heart -- remember?
And you, I remember, were standing there, straight as a soldier. You didn't have a hat, but you were giving the right salute. Remember your little sister? Not to be outdone, she was saluting the same as you with her right hand over her heart -- remember?
What happened? I'm still the same old flag. Oh, I've added a few more stars since you were a boy, and a lot more blood has been shed since those parades of long ago.
But now, somehow I don't feel as proud as I used to feel. When I come down your street, you just stand there with your hands in your pickets. You may give me a small glance, and then you look away. I see children running around you shouting; they don't seem to know who I am.
I saw one man take his hat off, then he looked around, and when he didn't see anybody else take off his hat, he quickly put his on again.
Is it a sin to be patriotic today? Have you forgotten what I stand for and where I have been? Anzio, Guadalcanal, Korea and Vietnam!
Take a look at the memorial honor rolls and see the names of those patriotic Americans who gave their lives to keep this republic free. When you salute me, you are actually saluting them.
Well, it won't be long until I'll be coming down your street again. So when you see me, please stand straight and place your hand over your heart, and I'll know that you remembered. I'll salute you by waving back! -- PAUL C. GRAHAM