I am a Veteran. I am an American. I am proud to be both. I am also a person who does their best to look at things optimistically but also from another’s point of view. I will tell you that I am completely offended when I see a dirty, tattered flag blowing. I get pissed off at the person who would dare show such disrespect for the colors that represent this country.
The first time I saw footage of someone burning a flag, I was all up in arms. The first time I saw an AMERICAN burning one, I was completely outraged. I put on a uniform & fought for that flag. Then I thought about it, I put on the uniform and fought for our rights, our freedoms. I don’t agree with burning of the flag but I also know that it is sadly a form of free speech (you don’t have to agree with me).
We’ve all seen the memes or heard people talk about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes before you pass judgement. I think walking a mile in my own shoes lately has allowed me to loosen my anger towards those that would desecrate our flag. What if their story is similar to mine? What if their story is similar to a growing number of Veterans?
I went to the VA complaining of a few things but the biggest was fatigue that came out of nowhere along with some other scary symptoms that accommodated this fatigue. I was sent home with no real diagnosis, no meds & no test results. When I called for the results of the blood work, I was told “We sent you a letter”. The guy seemed as if he was put out by having to tell me what the letter that never arrived had to say. The results were unnerving to me but he assured me I had nothing to worry about. He had no explanations for things like “abnormal liver functions” but I figured, he’s the medical professional, he knows that this isn’t something I should be concerned about.
I ended up either in or at the hospital several times after that with the worst condition being swelling of the membrane around my heart. This swelling I was told was part of the symptoms I presented with several months ago & had they paid attention to the issues, I could have avoided the feeling of having a heart attack and the swelling. Now you ask what does that have to do with me having a change of heart (no pun intended) towards people who would dare burn our flag?
I joined several Veterans groups only to learn that so many of us are being ignored into worse health issues or sadly, ignored to death. It made me wonder about the flag burners. Are they angry Veterans who feel they fought for nothing? Are they angry family members who lost loved ones because their country thought they were good enough to fight but not good enough to fight for their health when they returned home from their tours of duty? Is this the way they feel the need to get the attention needed for a situation that really needs an overhaul? I personally will not burn the flag, I’m still proud of it in spite of the treatment I’ve gotten since defending it but I won’t sit back & tell you that I’m outraged or pissed off when I see people disrespecting the flag anymore because I don’t know their motivation. A part of me understands their anger as I get lip service from the people in charge of the VA medical system. A part of me understands the rage that would cause a person to desecrate something so many hold dear as I learn from firsthand experience the lack of concern by the people charged with our care. A part of me understands their lack of respect for the flag as I pass homeless Veterans on the streets holding signs still proud of their service, carrying all of their life in the military issued duffle bags. I have a strange sympathy for these flag burners.