Flew a flag out in our yard ’til the day that he died

There’s a Toby Keith song that opens with the following:

American girls…and American guys
We’ll always stand up and salute
We’ll always recognize
When we see Old Glory flyin’
There’s a lot of men dead
So we can sleep in peace at night when we lay down our head

My daddy served in the Army
Where he lost his right eye
But he flew a flag out in our yard
‘Til the day that he died
He wanted my mother, my brother, my sister and me
To grow up and live happy
In the land of the free…

I remember the first time I heard this song back in probably 2002 (nearly 20 years ago!) the resonance it had for me. Back THEN it was more in seeing the various use of symbols, and personification of stuff…there’s words for it that I don’t recall at the moment, being so far removed from academia.

But the song came to mind to me yesterday for these opening two parts.

Moreso the second, but the first holds well in my eyes.

Cuz see…Dad was a veteran. He was in the US Navy for 21 years. He served on a ship in Vietnam, where he was exposed to Agent Orange, which contributed to so much of his health decline in recent years.

The song lyrics–and I’ve never researched to see if these are Keith’s words or some songwriter; whether they’re autobiographical or “just” the narrator; etc–reference the fact of someone’s father serving in the Army; my Dad served int he Navy.

My dad did not lose an eye or limb, but had that AO exposure over there. But despite that, and despite all his medical conditions these past few years in particular…he always considered himself so very blessed. To be here, to be alive. For Mom (oh, how he would go on about how he loved her and was so blessed by her!), for me (and he would “embarrass” me telling me how proud he was of me, to be my father, to have seen the man I’ve become, etc), my sister (I can’t/won’t speak in her stead); for all that he’d come through. Never “why me, Lord?” He was thankful for the opportunities it gave him to share of his faith; the opportunities he had to GIVE, to help others; and so on.

And he had a flag out in the yard all he could. Flagpole(s) in the yard, or mounted on the house and/or mailbox. It was always so important to him to see that flag flying. Even when his son had no clue the depth of its meaning to him.

Three of the four flags in the front yard. Photo by Walt Kneeland 1/5/2022

In recent years, Dad had these huge flagpoles installed in the front yard, with solar lights mounted to them, to fly the flags. The US Flag; our Ohio state flag; the US Navy flag; and a POW flag.

He also has the US flag flying on a pole in the back yard, where he could see it from his main chair in “the cave.”

So that line about flying the flag out in the yard until the day that he died….oh, how that is 100% true here!

There’s a lotta stuff around this house; and mini statues and such out amidst the flowerbed and such…the word I feel Mom and I have most used to “categorize” the is “Patriotic.”

That was Dad.

Whatever politics, he loved this country, and seemed glad to have served; especially to see the life he was able to give my Mom, sister, and me, HAVING served.

I feel like there should be so much more for me to say, here, now. But I also feel like a lot of it would be presumptuous of me; trying to speak FOR him. Or putting words into his mouth. Or whatever other sayings fit. I wish I had talked to him more about this kinda stuff. I wish I’d talked SOOOO much more with him despite all the time and times we did spend talking.

But I can only speak for my impressions gotten from him, and my observations, and what I knew. And I am confident that for him, it was all so much deeper and complex than words I can find on a Thursday morning continuing to mourn losing Dad just hours over one week ago.

One thought on “Flew a flag out in our yard ’til the day that he died

  1. Walt, this is a really great piece about your dad. He sounds like he was a great guy. Looking forward to more of these moments/thoughts you’ll be sharing. God bless. 🙏🏻✌🏻

    Liked by 1 person

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