“ It was one of the most scary, hellish places on earth. It looked like a moonscape with the burning sulfur and haze that hung over it. When we got ashore, it was just absolute chaos. There were bodies all over, wounded Marines. So they were in the water, on the beach, they were on the rise going up from the beach. There were parts of men all over. The corpsmen were working feverishly, the doctors were hacking away and it was just terrible. Our Marines were working their way up Mount Suribachi. I remember Jim Trimble turning to me and saying, “If we have to go up that hill, Don were gonna die.” When we saw the flag go up on February 23, it was just marvelous because we knew the hill was secure. It was a relief to see that flag go up even though we knew there was more ahead of us. Fifteen minutes later Jimmie was bayoneted, McClusky and Reed were dead, and Nitsell was wounded. I was laying flat when I heard the word grenades, and Jimmie Trimble was sitting up. He turned and caught the full blast of one of the grenades in the back and the other one went off between my legs…”
This is the eye witness account of Private Donald Mates, USMC at Iwo Jima on day three, February 22, 1945. It’s okay though, go ahead and kneel at the flag and our anthem as though it means nothing. It’s just a symbol, and Donald Mates wouldn’t want it any other way. Every war the United States has been involved in, from the Revolutionary War to Afghanistan, has similar stories, and believe it or not, more horrific stories can be told where our soldiers were out on the field of battle guarding our rights to live free and dying because of it. They went through adversity, commanded to neither look left or right, but straight forward. It was their heart and will, where their honor was kept, that made them move forward. They didn’t rely on their arms and legs, but on their courage and belief in freedom, because when their arms and legs failed them, they fought on their knees, persevering to defeat the enemy and ensure freedom for those back home.
Did I say knees? Thank goodness these valiant men weren’t protesting. Down through history, very few have wanted to go to war, and at times the wars may have seemed senseless to many. However, when the people of this country were called upon, they reacted with great patriotism. How would you feel on Pork Chop Hill in Korea or on Hamburger Hill in Vietnam where men were cut to pieces, and for what? For the notoriety of it? No, they did it because they were asked to do it, because they were Americans, because of you and me and because of America’s future. Today, men and women fight on because they choose to do it, and they are still dying for our freedom. No matter what the reason, soldiers of this United States have stepped up for the rights and freedoms of the people of this country, let us not forget that. Donald Mates was severely wounded that day and lost both legs so that our football players and elite Hollywood stars can kneel at our flag, put this country down and expect common folk to agree with them. Sure, there is nothing wrong with a good protest; it is our right that has been fought for time and time again. Just don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Go ahead – kneel at the trees, kneel in front of the court houses, kneel in the streets, kneel when you make a touchdown, kneel when your movie grosses $300 million, kneel when your pay stub is in the millions, kneel because of the oppressed as you start up your new Porshe. Go ahead, you have the right. However, don’t kneel and protest the one thing that gave so many hope as they fought so you can enjoy your rights. There are people that refer to the flag as symbolism, but grateful people see it as the standard by which freedom was gained and a reminder of the dear price that it has cost.
Many people say because of freedom we can kneel, burn, stomp, desecrate and do whatever else one can come up with to dishonor the flag. Yet, patriotic Americans understand that with that freedom comes a responsibility to protect the flag because when the chips are down and you’re under heavy fire, with one look at the flag, hope is regained. The oppressors understand that behind the flag are a people who will give up their lives to make sure that no one takes their freedom. Well at least that’s the way it used to be in this country. Woodrow Wilson said it best, “…right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things we hold near and dear to our hearts, for rights and liberties and for a voice in our governments.” When you see a veteran, old or young, remember they may have went through some kind of adversity far beyond what you can imagine and thank them. When you hear the national anthem and Old Glory waves in the wind, remember it is because of that standard that all people of all races have all the opportunity to become what they want, because of that freedom by which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.