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A Denney for Your Thoughts – Flag Day is reminder of sacrifices (June 3, 2015 issue)

Seeing another country’s flag gave me a deeper appreciation for our own. It was not just seeing a piece of fabric, you understand, any more than simply watching red white and blue fabric move freely in the wind accounts for our emotions at a patriotic event.
Fred Hollier unfolded the Japanese flag, a souvenir of his service in World War II, as we talked at his home on Love Street. The fabric has a silky feel with a red circle in the middle, surrounded by writing I could not decipher. Two narrow pieces attached to a more substantial triangle of material at two corners of the flag were used to tie the flag to a bayonet to be carried into battle. The red represents the sun, and Hollier has learned that the writing is family names.
Our own flag is honored June 14 in celebration of the date in 1777, when the Second Continental Congress adopted a national flag. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Flag Day in 1916. Then, in 1949, Congress established National Flag Day. It is not, however, an official federal holiday. Somehow, though, being face-to-face with someone who gave so much of himself to keep our country safe deserves pause for thought, especially as 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the war’s end.
The flag is not Hollier’s only reminder of fighting the Japanese. The 91-year-old former Marine, who earned two Purple Hearts, also has the piece of shrapnel dug from his back following the “million dollar wound” that meant the fighting was over for him.
At the urging of his family, he put his story into words, beginning with joining the Marines in December 1942 through his discharge in October 1945 and his family life after the war. Hollier says he did a good deal of the writing on his porch, where enjoys sitting and drinking coffee. Having lived the experience, he still sees it all clearly today.
One poignant story in his memoir, which is filled with awareness of death as he fought for a cause, Hollier calls “The Day I Saw Jesus.” He tells of staying behind alone to wait for a fellow Marine. “I’ll never forget the horror on his face as he came running toward me. When he got to me he was shot and died within my reach. That really left me alone. I got to thinking that it was time to check in. As we would say about somebody that died, they bought the farm.” Then he thought of his mother and her “going through the grief of my dying.”
What happened next is clear to him today, just as the details of the battles, dates and locations are. Jesus appeared before him “just as plain as day. It was just the upper part of his body. He didn’t speak to me but just looked at me as if he was telling me, ‘don’t worry, go and you’ll make it out.’”
As he told me in his living room, “And, I did.”