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Hats Off to Heroes...

May 30, 2012 - Steve Schulwitz
As I have for the last several years I attended the Memorial Day ceremony at Little Flanders Field in Alpena. As usual the event was well attended with people of all ages present to salute our war heroes by taking part in a flag-raising ceremony at the courthouse, a memorial for those lost at sea on the bank on the Thunder Bay River and a parade to the cemetery where the placing of the wreaths took place.

As people lined the road side and lounged on blankets watching our local heroes march by presenting our nation's colors I couldn't help but notice the amount of people, men and women, who were wearing hats. For one reason or another many chose not remove their hats as our veterans and the red, white and blue flag passed by. I was stunned and part of me a little ashamed at the display of disrespect toward our country's banner of freedom.

I questioned why so many ignored the ritual of removing their hats and even tried to justify it. In the end I couldn't. To me not removing one's hat when addressing the flag falls in line with burning it. Some may say that is a drastic comparison, but not to me. Perhaps that parallel would be shared by many of the veterans who were taking part in the events Monday as well. Trust me when I say those in uniform noticed as well because it's not like there were two or three baseball caps within eye shot of those marching, but dozens.

It was hot Monday and shade was scarce, but in my book that is an unacceptable excuse. Some were children and may not have known better. Call me crazy, but wouldn't the parade and ceremony have been the perfect opportunity for their elders to lead by example and to explain to the youngsters the importance of removing your Tigers hat for a few minutes when the flag comes by? The only excuse I could make for these people was ignorance.

Have Americans become so focused on cell phones and cameras they simply forget the lives that were sacrificed for them to be able to use these devises freely? Have people become so involved socializing during events which put our country and its heroes in the spotlight that they are more of a type of social hour than a memorial? I hope not.

This behavior was not limited to the parade, but the memorial ceremony as well. While trying to stay focused on my task and paying my respects, I couldn't help but scan the crowd once again only to find many still had hats on, even during the Pledge of Allegiance, invocation, the playing of Taps.

It is my hope some of these people read this today and this blog awakens them with a renewed sense of appreciation for not only veterans, but for the flag and our country as a whole.

I know people are fed up with our nation's leaders and their handling of the country. I know many call for drastic changes because of the state of the United States. These are not legitimate excuses however and in my opinion if we have become so overcome with resentment that we can't honor those who have preserved our liberty, then I fear where our society will be 25 years from now.

I'm sure each of us have a family member who has served or been killed at war. I think you need to ask yourself what their thoughts would be about this dissrespectful act? I suspect they wouldn't be proud, but rather disappointed and embarrassed.


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