Freedom Is a Lot More Than Stars and Stripes

Article excerpt

Byline: Denise Raleigh

Did you hear they've made a flag larger than two football fields?

I've seen a picture, but I'll bet it's even more breathtaking in person.

Old Glory will be out in all her majesty this weekend as we honor our veterans. The attack on Sept. 11 has awakened a patriotic fervor for America. I hope we have glorious weather this weekend so the symbol of our country can flutter against a cobalt blue sky and a vivid orange sunset.

But maybe it would be just as well if it rains and the wind howls. As we recognize those who served this country, it might do us good to have to brave some elements - the veterans sure did. It might also do us good to remember that flags of grandiose proportions may be beautiful, but they can't adequately embody the spirit of our country.

It's not the flag. It is in us.

The hero next door: Jack McCambridge is my neighbor and I often see him in his small garden at the back of his yard. Sometimes he reaches over the fence to pet our dog, Teddy, who likes to keep tabs on Jack. In the summer, Teddy lies in the cool sandbox as he watches Jack, who seems to mow his lawn on the hottest day of week at the hottest part of the day.

I, too, watch Jack on those days. White haired, tanned and fit, he waves jauntily when he sees me. At 79, he's still quite a man of action.

Jack is a veteran who has faced American challenges both at war and at peace.

He landed on Day Six at Normandy Beach with the 941st Field Artillery Battalion. His troop waited long hours on the carrier on the stormy English Channel listening as Company A of the 29th Infantry Division took a pounding. When his battalion finally made it through the cold, choppy water onto the beach, among the shelling, bodies were being tagged and organized for transport. In Company A, 96 percent of the men of were either wounded or dead.

The men of the 941st slept under their Wolverine tanks at night as they moved through Normandy, Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe. They wore the same clothes, down to their wet socks, for weeks. They saw action and its aftermath.

After the war, Jack came home. His brother, Richard, did not. Richard died aboard the USS Bismarck Sea. Jack's full life has included the joys of marriage, children and successful careers. His name is still on Coldwell Banker real estate signs around town. When Jack shared his World War II experience with me for a 1998 column, his daughter, Melissa, learned for the first time about many of his experiences. He doesn't make a habit of talking about his heroics or medals, and he still doesn't think he was more deserving than anyone else. He said he was just doing his job.

Jack was just doing his job again in 1993 when he faced another tough American challenge. …