Honoring the Flag
As we drove home from a week’s beach vacation in Florida, we passed a sign for Selma, Alabama.
I’ve never personally known anyone from Selma, but I immediately remembered a story about a POW who was from that area because it impacted me so much the first time I heard Sen. John McCain share it.
As you probably know, Sen. McCain spent five and a half years as a POW during the Vietnam War. While imprisoned, he shared a cell with a man named Mike Christian. Mike hailed from a small town near Selma and didn’t even wear a pair of shoes until he was 13. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy at age 17 and eventually became a Naval Flight Officer; he was shot down and captured in 1967.
Sen. McCain shared that Mike had a very deep appreciation for the opportunities the United States and the Navy had afforded him. He loved America so much that when he had gathered enough handkerchiefs, scarves and other pieces of clothing from care packages that were allowed in their cell, Mike created an American flag and secretly sewed it on the inside of his shirt using a bamboo needle. It took him about two months to create.
Every day before they ate their soup, Mike would hang his shirt on the wall of the cell and they would say the Pledge of Allegiance together. It became the most important and meaningful part of their day. Then one afternoon, the Vietnamese searched their cell and found Mike’s shirt with the makeshift flag sewn inside. They immediately removed it and when they returned later that day, they severely beat Mike, making an example of him. Sen. McCain and a few other prisoners cleaned him up as best they could, but Mike was still a mess when they all found their places on the concrete slab floor for the night.
Later that evening, Sen. McCain awoke to see Mike in the corner of the dimly lit room, hard at work. Though Mike’s eyes were almost swollen shut, he was carefully using his bamboo needle, a scrap of material and a shirt to make yet another American flag. Not because he wanted to be a hero. Simply because he wanted to provide an American flag so that he and the other POWs in their cell could pledge allegiance to the flag and the country they loved.
As we celebrate Flag Day on June 14 here in the U.S.A., I hope you’ll fly your flag high and proud. I hope you’ll take time to thank God for our freedom and for those who have fought for it. I hope you’ll reflect on Sen. McCain’s moving story. And I hope you’ll remember Mike Christian and his devotion to the American flag and all that it stands for–one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Father, we thank you for the freedom we enjoy in this country, and we ask that you bless the men and women in uniform–both past and present–who have given so much. Lord, help us to never forget that freedom isn’t free, and help us to show honor where honor is due. In Jesus’ Mighty Name. Amen.