I received a beautiful letter from a reader of my Free Men and Dreamers books who shared a remarkably tender story with me. Her name is Diane Wilson, and this true story came from her father-in-law. It was so personal and painful, he only shared it one time, but as you'll see from the story, the details remained excruciatingly close to him all his life. Here it is, in her own words. She gave me permission to share it. Thank you, Diane.
My father-in-law was a prisoner of war of the Japanese during World War II. He was on the Philippians when McArthur surrendered the islands after the bombing of Pearl Harbor; he wasn’t released until the war’s end, at which time he and the prisoners he was with were in Japan.
Dad once told the story of how one of the men in his unit had a small American flag folded and kept in his breast pocket. On special occasions (4th of July, Thanksgiving. and even Christmas… those holidays when the men’s hearts turned away from the tortures they endured and focused on family and memories of happier times), the men would gather and this soldier would take out the flag, reverently unfold it, and all would stand as best they could and repeat the Pledge of Allegiance. Then the soldier would carefully refold the little fag and again protectively place it in his breast pocket.
Up until Dad’s death last year, whenever he saw a flag in a parade, at a ball game, or in a ceremony, his shoulders would begin to shake, large tears would roll down his face as great sobs would take over. The flag represented freedom to him… home, family, country. It brought back memories of the men he was imprisoned with and the sacrifices each made. Many of his friends simply gave up; those were very emotional memories for Dad. He was a true patriot who loved his country and it’s symbol, the American flag. Dad was given full military honors for his burial, and the flag he loved so dear draped his casket.