Sometimes You Have to Look Up

Our granddaughter joined the Air Force and I asked her why she didn’t join the Marine Corps to which she replied, “Grandpa, I don’t think I could take the stress.” I said good for you. Better to realize it before you are on the receiving end of a Drill Instructor rant. Well, most of the family made the drive from Chicago to San Antonio to Lackland Air Force Base for her boot camp graduation. To say I was one proud grandpa, regardless of the branch of service would be an understatement. We had to park a couple of blocks away from the parade area where the graduation would occur, so we walked along the main street and crossed over an expansive bridge and I couldn’t help but look up and notice that every light post had an American flag flying from it, and most were torn and tattered. So now I’m a p-ssed off Marine on an Air Force base. We watch the graduation, which was pretty cool and then our granddaughter took us to show us her barracks. While there I’m introduced to her commanding officer, a Captain, who I thanked for the guidance and training he gave all the Airman and then asked, “is the Commanding General of the base available?” His eyes got real big and asked why to which I replied, “I have a message for the General – it is unacceptable to be on an American military base and have torn and tattered American flags flying.” Well, my family went ballistic on me fearing our granddaughter would lose her weekend liberty. I assured them that a good officer would take it with the intent meant. His response was, “no Generals around here.” We drove back to Chicago and a few days later our granddaughter called and said, “Grandpa, do you remember what you said to that Captain?” I replied, how could I forget after the h-ll I got from the family. She said, “well grandpa, because of what you said they replaced every American flag on the base today.” Mission accomplished. How many times have officers, including the Commanding General, Staff NCO’s and NCO’s traveled along that street and bridge and failed to look up and notice the disgrace looming over their heads? Sometimes you have to look up from what you are doing and recognize what is wrong and get it squared away.

Semper Fi Marines,
Tom Gillespie
USMC / RVN ’70 – ’71

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17 thoughts on “Sometimes You Have to Look Up”

  1. Andrew Jackson once said, “One man with courage makes a majority.” I learned this while reading his biography, and carried it and used it throughout the remainder of my life. Everyone from the Commanding General to the lowest recruit probably noticed the condition of those flags on more than one occassion. But, all lacked the courage to say or do what needed to be said or done. It took a visiting Marine, with courage to insure that the majority knew about and got the job done. It’s a big difference between the Marine Corps and other branches of service. Well done, Marine, and Semper Fi!

  2. AMEN Brother—AMEN!! I guess it’s true what they all say (or should) It take the Marines to keep the others squared away. Someone needs to have have standards and take pride. Good for you my friend…..

  3. I just couldn’t resist posting this response of an incident which happened to me … In, I believe it was in 1971.. I was working for ” Illinois Bell “… One of our managers, who happened to also be a First Sgt. in the Illinois Air National Guard approached myself and another previous ARMY supervisor to join his unit located at O’Hare International airport … It was a ” COMM ” unit attached to an air refueling squadron … Myself and this other person were brought on board as supervisors within that squadron … At the first weekend morning formation that I participated in, I had noticed that the main flagpole on base, a short distance from us, had a flag on it that was unbelievably ” tattered, with the stripes separating as you might see at some place where they really don’t give a crap about showing RESPECT “… At the end of the morning formation, I made my way to the Commanding Colonel’s office, and I, ( as shown in Marine Corps Boot Camp ) knocked three times, ( quite LOUDLY ) and requested to speak with the ” COMMANDING OFFICER ” … He asked me into his office and asked me what he could do for me … I asked him to follow me to the opposite side of the office where another bank of windows were that faced the main flagpole … I pointed to that flagpole, and told him that this was a MILITARY POST … And that, THAT FLAG is a DISGRACE !!! I told him that we are SUPPOSED to have PRIDE and show PROFESSIONALISM, and that flag just wasn’t it !!! He thanked me and told me he would take it under advisement … I left the Colonel, and went on about my business… The next month’s formation was a bit of a shocker to me… The Colonel had drawn every person’s attention to that flagpole ( which was the first thing I paid attention to when entering the base )… The Colonel had mentioned that I, had brought it to his attention, and that I was a US Marine, and that the men there should start to pay attention to my hair length, ( no longer ” HIGH & TIGHT ” ) but was at the required military length, as well as my moustache, ended at the corners of my lips Etc … This didn’t sit too well with a lot of the men because they were even in the news for rejecting conformity … They had LONG hair but wore wigs of uniform lengths and had their hair STUFFED under them … Needless to say, they didn’t really appreciate my joining them … Actually, I was told that they joined ” THE GUARD ” to get out of being drafted, and sent to Nam… WOW, Huh !!! Semper Fi… Rick Hunt U.S.M.C. / RVN 66, 67, 68 …

    1. Oh, I forgot to mention that the ” TATTERED FLAG ” had been replaced by the C.O. during the month … Rick Hunt … Semper Fi…

  4. A great story Tom and I loved the comments as well. My fear is we have fallen a long way from when Rick Monday saved a flag from being burned by a bunch of yahoos to athletes kneeling before the flag. I shudder to think what some of these Olympic athletes will do in Korea in the shadow of Kim Jong Un. We veterans have to be the standard bearers for what is right and decent and proper in concern with our American flag and our great country when its popular as well as when it is not. Thank you all veterans for taking a stand for the flag!

  5. Great that’s what is needed I think we have to stand up for the flag and what it stands for. One time at work I found the flag wadded up and laying on a work bench I took the flag and folded it and locked it up in my locker. After a few days my boss was telling me someone stole the flag my reply was nobody stole it that I found it wadded up and laying on a bench and l took it.I told him if they are not going to take care of it right I will lock it up again. Someone told me later that it got wet and they put it there to dry, my reply was I don’t care what you are doing do it right with the flag. A few weeks later I walked into an office with the boss and the flag was not folded laying there on the desk. When I went to get it he got there before I could and told me he would take care of it. After that I never seen it laying around like that ,they knew I would be watching.

  6. My Father was a Marine, and also were his six sons, I was number 3 son. My father bread in his sons the pride in the Marine Corps and the love of our flag. and it has remained with me all my life.one of my favorite songs is our National Anthem. many years ago one of my brothers and I were home on leave at the same time. We were out visiting friends and old school chums one day when we were driving by a lumber company that had fences all around it and a 20 foot flag pole with the worst tattered Flag I’ve ever seen. right then my brother who was driving whip the truck around and headed for the front gate that was still open even being about 7pm. we enter the office and asked to see the owner or manger. when the guy came out he was a middle age gentleman hippy looking. no hello but what do you want in gruff manner. We explained our concern about the flag and ask if they would let us take it down and dispose of it properly. he was very disrespectful and the words I won’t reprint. but he told us he didn’t care about the flag know matter what shape it was in. They cost money you know. We then offered to pay for a new one. he told us bleeding hearts to get off the property. Well we left. but two nights later My brother and I returned with a new flag. It was about 1am we pulled up to the fence climb up on the roof of the cab and climb the fence. over we went. It took us only about 4 minutes to hoist the colors. we both saluted the flag and climb the fence and returned to the bar to toast our achievement. I understand nobody knew for almost a week that a new flag had been raised. and I understand it flew for many years before it was replace with a new one. God bless America Our flag and USMC. Have a merry and happy holiday everyone.

  7. YES!! Job well done!! Unfortunately, this is not that uncommon. I am always in a battle with our township supervisors about the condition of their flags.Not as bad as on a military base!!! SHAME!! SEMPER FI!! Harry

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