Veterans Day Guest

November 13, 2010

John's flag that was flown in Iraq

The flag was flying over his camp in Iraq on August 11, 2007 — on the day that Sgt 1st Class John Arnold will never forget. 

Maybe like I, you’ll remember the footage shown on TV of the soldiers storming their way through gray, locked, block doors, looking for Al Queda higher-ups.  It was death-risky business, bursting through those random units, one after the other, but that’s what the order of the day was for Sgt Arnold’s men.  He knew what it could mean.  He didn’t know for how many of them, but he knew what would probably be coming.  And so he wanted to be by their sides, helping them, going into it with them, neck in neck, each of them up to their snot in ragged risk.  But his was the hardest job of all, to stay put–to watch and wait.  And then to have to deal with the guilt in his gut, if any of his boys were lost.  Well, on that day, on August 11, 2007, when that flag was flying over their camp, 5 men were lost.  

I think it was my Aunt Sara who said that if something didn’t kill you, it helped you:  going through bad stuff can sometimes make you better–more understanding, more compassionate–you get the idea.  You get more of the good stuff inside you because of the bad outside you.  Not always, but sometimes.  It’s happened that way with John Arnold.

As he said of himself, he “liked to talk.”  So he got a lot said in just a little bit of time.  And it was our privilege to listen.  Towards the end of our time together, when Millie and he were about to leave, John disappeared for a couple of minutes.  When he came back inside, he was carrying the folded flag.  And that’s when he told us the story of the 5 guys he lost on that summer day in 2007 in Iraq.  And that was when he gave us that flag that had flown over that camp on that day.   We all cried.  I’m crying again as I type.   Enough said.  Thank you, John.  The privilege was all our’s.  You make our country proud.

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