Last Memorial Day I was in Ocean City, New Jersey. I was taking an early morning day-dreamish walk through the beach's cool wading pools when suddenly Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." startled me. I looked up to the nearby boardwalk, and there was our flag slowly rising on what turned out to be an official town flagpole.
The beachwalkers and boardwalkers stopped in place as they became aware of the flag raising. So did the bicyclists and tricyclists. And the stroller-pushers. Some put their hands over their hearts. Other simply stood still. Old men and young girls alike.
As Lee Greenwood's voice blared from the loudspeaker near the flagpole, nobody – and I mean nobody -- moved.
Even after the flag was in place atop the pole, nobody moved until "God Bless the U.S.A." ended.
I know there were flag raisings just like the one I witnessed in Ocean City last Memorial Day all over the country, from the tiniest town squares to the largest metropolitan city halls. I was told, in fact, that the flag is raised every single day of the beach season in Ocean City, although I've only spent that one morning there, last Memorial Day, to witness it.
So, to be sure, in one sense I understand the flag-raising in Ocean City last Memorial Day was not unusual at all. Nevertheless, Lee Greenwood's song, also known by many as "Proud to Be An American," was particularly moving to me in the stillness of that late May morning, that morning when all movement on the beach came to a halt. You can listen to the song here, but this is part of the refrain:
"And I'm proud to be an American
Where at least I know I'm free
And I won't forget the men who died
Who gave that right to me…"
Whether we are at Ocean City, New Jersey, or Ocean City, Maryland, or the backyard barbeque, the local shopping mall, or the baseball park, hopefully we will all find a moment in time this Memorial Day to pause and remember all those brave men and women who have died to preserve our freedom. And to remember and be grateful to those who are risking their lives to do so today.
For myself, I'm sure I'll imagine I am standing on the beach in Ocean City, New Jersey, singing along softly to strains of "God Bless the U.S.A." as nobody moves, and we all remember.
From all of us at the Free State Foundation, have a safe, happy, and memorable Memorial Day.