Thomas M. Boles, 33, G.C.
La Habra, California

If we act on our inner convictions, there will be no need to worry about the flag or our freedom.

Throughout every war and conflict our nation has endured-while the rockets were glaring and the sounds of guns, bombs, and artillery were everywhere-we Americans could always look into our hearts and find our flag still there and ourselves still free under the great canopy of the red, white, and blue.

Immediately after the flag was flown for the first time, General Washington is said to have described its symbolism as follows: “We take the stars from heaven, the red from our Mother Country, separating it by white stripes, thus showing that we have separated from Her, and the white stripes shall go down to posterity representing liberty.”

Similarly, “Our flag is more than cloth,” wrote Justice Charles E. Hughes. “It is the symbol of our national unity, our national endeavor, our national aspiration. It tells of the struggle for independence, of union preserved, of liberty and union, one and inseparable, of the sacrifices of brave men and women to whom the ideals and honor of this nation have been dearer than life.”

A more recent example of this deep sense of patriotism comes from a speech entitled “Duty, Honor, Country” presented by Senator John McCain of Arizona on August 15, 1988. Senator McCain had been a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Here is what he had to say about our country and our flag:

“We are a great country-the most wonderful in the world and a beacon of hope for millions who live in darkness and despair. Pride in the flag that surrounds us today is essential to everyone. I spent five and half years at the Hanoi Hilton [as a POW]. In the early years of our imprisonment, the North Vietnamese kept us in solitary confinement with two or three men to a cell. In 1971, the North Vietnamese moved us from these conditions of isolation into large rooms with as many as 30 to 40 men to a room. This was, as you can imagine, a wonderful change.

“One of the men who moved into my cell was Mike Christian. Mike came from a small town near Selma, Alabama. He didn’t wear a pair of shoes until he was 13 years old. At age 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He later earned a commission. He became a Naval Flying Officer and was shot down and captured in 1967. Mike had a deep appreciation for people who want to work and want to succeed.

“The uniforms we wore in prison consisted of a blue short-sleeved shirt, trousers that looked like pajama trousers, and rubber sandals that were made out of automobile tires. As part of the change in treatment, the Vietnamese allowed some prisoners to receive packages from home. In some of these packages were handkerchiefs, scarves, and other items of clothing. Mike got himself a piece of white cloth and a piece of red cloth, and fashioned himself a bamboo needle. Over a period of a couple of months, he sewed the American flag on the inside of his shirt.

“Every afternoon, before we had a bowl of soup, we would hang Mike’s shirt on the wall of our cell, and say the Pledge of Allegiance. I know that saying the Pledge may not seem the most important or meaningful part of our day now. But I can assure you that-for these men in that stark prison cell-it was indeed the most important and meaningful event of our day.

“One day, the North Vietnamese searched our cell and discovered Mike’s shirt with the flag sewn inside and removed it. That evening they returned, opened the door of the cell, called for Mike Christian to come out, closed the door of the cell, and for the benefit of all of us, beat Mike Christian severely for the next couple of hours.

“Then they opened the door of the cell and threw him back inside. He was not in good shape. We tried to comfort and take care of him as well as we could. The cell in which we lived had a concrete slab in the middle on which we slept. Four naked light bulbs hung in each corner of the room.

“After things quieted down, I went to lie down to go to sleep. As I did, I happened to look in the corner of the room. Sitting there beneath that dim light bulb, with a piece of white cloth, a piece of red cloth, another shirt and his bamboo needle, was my friend Mike Christian, with his eyes almost shut from his beating, making another American flag. He was not making that flag because it made Mike Christian feel better. He was making that flag because he knew how important it was for us to be able to pledge our allegiance to our flag and country.

“Duty, Honor, Country. We must never forget the thousands of Americans who, with their courage, with their sacrifice, and with their lives, made those words live for all of us.”

Every Mason is in some measure, a Mike Christian or a John McCain with the red, white, and blue of “Old Glory” sewn inside a personal shirt of patriotism. If we act on our inner convictions, there will be no need to worry about the flag or our freedom.

The above article is a shortened form of a Flag Day address given by Ill. Boles on June 14, 1996, to the San Bernardino Valley’s Flag Day Celebration.

What Freemasonry Is All About

On March 13, 1997, my wife gave birth to our son, Riad, after a long and painful labor, but while still at the local hospital, instead of joy, a nightmare began. Something was wrong. He was rushed to a children’s hospital some miles away. Only my wife could accompany him in the ambulance. In distress, I called Bro. Glen W. Hutchings, 32, Master of my Lodge, Whatcom No. 151. Not only did he drive me to the hospital, but he sat with my wife and me for many terrifying and painful hours as they performed emergency surgery for malrotation of the bowel. Bro. Glenn comforted us until 4:00 am when the doctors reported Riad was going to be OK. A few days later, he visited with his wife, two daughters and, for good measure, my mother-in-law. Now that is what Freemasonry is all about.

Bro. Oussama R. El-Khoury, 32
Bellingham, Washington, Scottish Rite Bodies