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Country and Flag

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Contributor: Kale Liam Hobbes || Poem Categories

A poetic rendering of Honoring the American Flag from a condensed speech by
Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, COL (ret) Leo K. Thorsness, US Air Force.
And dedicated to the memory of LCDR (ret) Michael Christian (1940-1983), US Navy.
The Common = a confined area outdoors
dregs = leftovers
the hold = torture cell
Our Flag of Rags

I'd guess you've seen the bumper sticker on somebody's car;
"These colors don't run" with a U.S. flag, and I'm always glad they are --
There to remind me, when in 'Nam I was a POW;
From '67 to '73, i remember vividly now.

The camp was in Hao Lo - the Hanoi Hilton it was known;
I was just a Major then, and our treatment brutal shown,
Three years went by, however, and the beatings they were less;
When they put us out in The Common to bathe (because we were a mess).

One day, at the water tank, we had gathered all;
When a young Navy pilot named Christian found a rag near our prison wall,
It was a handkerchief in the gutter - a filthy, dirty rag;
And he managed to sneak it into our cell and began to make it a flag.

Over time we loaned him soap bits, and days he spent to clean;
And we helped by scrounging and stealing bits and pieces we had seen,
At night under his mosquito net, on the flag he worked erstwhile;
He made red and blue from dregs of ink and ground-up roofing tile.

He painted the colours onto the cloth with a watery rice-based glue;
And with thread from his blanket and a makeshift needle, he stitched a starry hue,
A few days later, at early morn, "Hey, Look!" he whispered aloud;
And he held up his work, in a make-shift breeze, waving it so proud.

Straight-backed pride and sharp salutes made it all too clear;
Just what that smudgy fabric was, when some eyes filled with tears,
But once a week we were stripped and the guards went through our clothes;
And during one of these checks, they found the flag and their hot-head tempers rose.

We knew too well what would occur, that very night they came;
They tore open the cell and pulled Christian out, pinning on him all the blame.
And we heard the beginnings of torture, before they had him in the hold;
Night interrogations were always the worst - heartless, endless and cold.

And the beatings, they were always bad, and they beat him most of the night;
And they pushed what was left of him back through the door, just before day's light,
Our Navy pilot was badly broken, his voice was even gone;
But within two weeks, despite the danger, he began his task anon.

Another flag made from rags - bold stripes amidst many a star;
A symbol of our great nation and what many of us are,
Even now, I think of Christian, and the flag made proud by he;
And although confined in a prison cell, our proud spirit did soar free!

By Kale Liam Hobbes
Copyright 1999

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