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Friday, June 15, 2012

.Flag Memories Beginning in 1966

By Tim Shaw Sr.          
I began my quest to figure out this giant of a man on our little weekend hikes. But, like so many of the Greatest Generation who had been through WWII, he was a tough nut to crack. There were many men like him in my church, there was just no bragging, or talking about the war for that matter, but as a boy I just had the feeling I stood among giants. Well, it took time and effort, but with my 12 year old untrained therapist skills, by the end of the Big Hike of August 1966 I finally got the story basically put together.

Mr. Arthur had enlisted in the Army when he was 17, well looked 18. He was trained and found himself in England waiting for the invasion of Europe. The day came, and he landed on Omaha Beach (he wasn’t one for telling too many details), then he fought through the terrible hedge row country of France. They fought their way through France. He was in Northern France when the Germans attacked out of the Ardennes Forrest and the Battle of the Bulge began. Mr. Arthur and those with him became trapped in, and surrounded for over two weeks, the town of Bastogne where they dug foxholes and fought off the Germans until they almost starved to death, froze to death and ran out of ammunition, but they all refused to surrender. They were finally rescued by Patton’s Army on Dec 26, 1944.

As I studied and learned a more about WWII history it all came together for me. I came to understand, as best I could, what he went through to defend that flag and all it stands for. When he shed tears while pledging allegiance it this was something very real. This was a bullet dodging, friend dying, starving, and freezing to death kind of real pledge to him. He was truly prepared and so close to giving his life for his pledge. I am sure when he looked at that flag; memory of dear close friends he left on Europe’s soil came to his mind, sacrifices unspoken.

When he taught us young boys about HONOR, DUTY, and COUNTRY I remember how quiet we got. No one had to say anything, it was just understood when Mr. Arthur spoke about these things, there was to be reverence in the room, a hero was speaking, a man that knew something about these things had the floor.

I was so worried when the Greatest Generation began to pass on in such large numbers; I was worried that my children would not know these great heroes from my youth. When the movie “Saving Private Ryan” came out, I took my son Chris who was then 13, (he is now 26), to see it. I had pointed out my old Scoutmaster Larry Arthur to him at church, and had tried to explain to him what a great man he was, but he just didn’t get it, how could I tell him? So I hoped the movie would help. The Sunday after we saw the movie I took Chris up to shake Larry Arthur’s hand, which he did. Then I explained to Mr. Arthur we had just seen “Saving Private Ryan,” Mr. Arthur said he had seen it too, and then he said to Chris, “So what did you think Chris?” Chris couldn’t speak; he just stood there and cried. My son finally understood.

Mr. Arthur passed away about 4 years later. A lot of Mr. Arthur’s old boy scouts came to his funeral and served as his pallbearers. We had a flag on his casket, and I cried at the site of it, I knew what that flag meant to him, what he had done for the ideals behind it. And what a modest man he had been about it.

What has always struck me most about the most heroic amongst us is that they are also the humblest. Having met many of our current servicemen and women I am not worried about my children or grandchildren. There are still heroes amongst us, even in my own family, to inspire and to remind of our countries inspiring values. Since Mr. Arthur taught me about, Duty, Honor, Country, Flags, Freedom, Liberty and Hero’s, I am now frequently the one that has the tears when I pledge Allegiance to the Flag. And, I have my own Patriot to thank for my tears of understanding.

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