He sits in a wheelchair pushed to the curb. The people around him move aside to assure he is able to see. His shrunken body a shell of what it used to be. His breathing labored, aided by the tube that extends from the oxygen tank attached to his chair. On his head, he sports a blue campaign cap with VFW stitched in gold. He is one of America's finest, come to pay his respects.
Behind him stands a younger woman who has guided him there. A daughter perhaps, fussing over him, adjusting the robe in his lap, assuring his comfort. He shows no resistance to the attention, but simply sits and waits.
In the distance drums are heard, soon to be joined by the sound of horns. A stirring march riffles over the crowd, and an electricity grips their senses. Soon the call of cadence is heard. The measured tramp of boots, perfectly in time with the music. It grows louder until at last, a military formation looms into view. Uniformed soldiers, marching in perfect rows, perfect columns, gleaming boots, ribboned chests, weapons at rest on their shoulders. The crowd stirs. Small flags are waved. Cheers erupt. Pride hangs thick in the air.
The color guard approaches. Banners held high, snapping in the breeze. Some spectators remove their caps while others cover their hearts. Children, hoisted to their fathers shoulders, clap in excitement.
The old man tugs at the woman's sleeve and motions for her to come closer. She leans down and listens as he speaks, then asks "are you sure"?. He nods his head. Walking to the front of the chair, she removes the robe and, grasping his outstretched hands, pulls him slowly to his feet, where he stands with her assistance. Those around him watch as the frail, stooped body, with some difficulty, stands more erect. They see the pain etched on his face, and the tear that escapes his eye as he offers a salute as the flag passes by.
Suddenly, the cadence count stops, and in it's place is heard a command . A command normally reserved for when passing a reviewing stand. "Company, eyes right" the guidon bearer bellows, and with that, he returns the aging veterans salute, a sign of respect for an old soldier. After all, it is his flag. It is his country. He bought them both many years ago.
Jan 10, 2012