Perhaps one of the greatest honors of my life was sitting next to my Dad at a neighborhood Fourth of July parade. He was at the time part of a vanishing breed, the last of the World War II vets, sitting on his lawn chair waving his American flag as all the groups went by. He didn’t see my tears that day, and I doubt he would have understood them.
My Dad is dead now, having passed away nearly ten years ago. I remember so vividly the army corporal who played taps at his burial. I approached him as we were all gathering around my Dad’s coffin at the cemetery to prepare for the final rites. I wanted him to know a bit about my Dad’s service in the army, how he had his own tank which he named after my Mom, who predeceased him. I wanted the presence of this representative from our Armed Services to be more than pro forma. I still remember him turning to me and saying, “I am pleased to play for such an honorable gentleman.”
It was Dad himself who caused those tears during the parade. He had passed along to me by way of example the spirit of the virtue of patriotism long before the U.S. Bishops defined it in their 1983 pastoral letter on war and peace. They wrote, “The virtue of patriotism means that as citizens we respect and honor our country, but our very love and loyalty makes us examine carefully its role in world affairs, asking that it live up to its full potential as an agent of peace with justice for all people.”
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