I am a 20-year U.S. Navy veteran. I gave 20 years of my life to preserve the right of people in this country to have their freedom of speech. I support that with all of my heart. Whether I agree, disagree or stand indifferent for the cause.
However, I have noticed that most of the letters against the ban of the Confederate flags at the Expo Center are by people who have probably never felt the twinge of being treated differently because of the color of their skin.
I volunteered to take a flight to Paducah, Ky., one time because a shipmate of mine from that town was being honored for his service to our country. My crew and I went to the ceremony at the local VFW. We were sitting around a table and music started to play. I love to dance. Anyone that knows me knows that I love to dance. One of my crew members was a pretty blond-haired, blue-eyed young lady. I asked her to dance and we went out to the dance floor. We were there not more than a minute when I felt someone grab me by the arm and spin me around. All I heard was a gruff voice saying, “We don’t like your kind dancing with our women” and then I heard the distinctive click of a switchblade knife being opened.
A lot of thoughts went through my head at that instance. Luckily for me, my other crew members grabbed this guy and pulled him away before he could cut me. I was grabbed by a few other people in there and was not so politely escorted out of the building. As I was walking out the door there was the Rebel Confederate flag flying proudly in the corner of the room. The crew member that was being honored came to me and apologized but he told me that I couldn’t go back in and I had to wait in the car until they were finished and then we could leave. So I sat there in the car by myself for over an hour fuming and mad but without recourse unless I wanted to get hurt, discretion being the better part of valor. I remember that like it was yesterday; it was in the late ’70s.
I understand the historical significance of both Confederate flags. It is the Rebel Confederate flag that is used by many as a racial symbol that can be disturbing to some. It has been banned by many organizations including churches, schools, cities, businesses and others in many parts of this country. To those of the greatest generation ever, it is no different than flying a German flag with a swastika which would not be tolerated by most who are writing these letters of support. I would like to think that includes my good friend Smokey.
Having told my story I stress that I am a strong supporter of freedom of speech. Much like the gentleman who flew the American flags upside down in protest recently it was his right to do so. We as veterans didn’t like it but it was his right to do so on his own personal property. You want to fly the Rebel Confederate flag on your personal property, that is your business. Fly it on your bike, your bar, your home or your RV... that is your right and I support you. However, there are places where flying that flag is inappropriate. Our churches, our schools, our government buildings, including the Expo Center, are just a few.
I suspect that the majority of the people writing the letters of support understand the racial symbolism of the Rebel Confederate flag but until you have felt the hatefulness, the hurt, the disgusting feeling you get in the pit of your stomach because you are told you can’t do something simply because of the color of your skin, you will never truly UNDERSTAND! Let’s not allow that in our community.