I worked as a volunteer on the McCain Presidential campaign in the last four days before the election. We all gathered in a cramped, thrown together campaign office in Scranton, Pennsylvania, which looked nothing like the gleaming command centers usually portrayed on TV. Nope, this office consisted of folding tables fronted by folding chairs, bad coffee and doughnuts. Twelve hour days were the norm for the full time volunteers, with other volunteers coming in after the dinner hour.
We were nearing that dinner hour when one of the volunteers that I had worked with came up to me, quite agitated. It turns out that a very large American flag that had flown over a garrison had been donated to the campaign office. Trouble was, whoever delivered it had unceremoniously dumped it on the floor. Quite rightly, Ron the volunteer was highly offended but had no idea what to do with this very large flag. Knowing I was a police officer, he came to me for help (yes, we are supposed to know how to take care of everything). We ran back to the front of the office, curious eyes now following the minor hubbub taking place.
“What do we do?” he asked.
“Well, first things first. We get it off the floor, then we fold it properly.”
“How do we fold something this big?” he asked.
“Go get those teenage boys in the back,” I said. “We’re gonna need a few hands for this one.” And while I gently gathered the flag from the floor, he ran to get assistance. The security guard, who had not said two words during his entire shift, came over to volunteer the information that he used to take down and fold the flag every night while in the Army.
“Good,” I said. “You’re in charge in showing us how to fold this flag properly.”
He stood a bit taller, said “Yes, ma’am” and helped me start straighten the flag out. It was enormous, and when fully stretched, took up most of the office. Ron came back with about eight confused teenage boys, who could not understand what the fuss was about.
It was just a flag, after all. They didn’t get it.
We positioned the boys along the flag, intent on our task. The boys chattered, as boys do, while we began. They didn’t get it, after all.
The other volunteers, busy with the phones, began to look around at the fuss. They saw what we were doing and nodded their heads in approval. The Army man began the painstakingly slow process of folding the flag precisely, with me and Ron assisting. With each fold of the flag, the careful stretching and tucking of each corner and smoothing of the material, the boys’ chatter started to slow.
The boys became more interested in what we were doing. They began to take part in the deliberate folding, jumping in spontaneously to make sure the material was perfectly smooth and no wrinkles were present for the next turn. Their chatter eventually ceased and they became focused slowly on the flag, to the exclusion of everything else in the room.
By the time the last fold was done, the last corner perfectly tucked in and the flag placed in its rightful spot of honor in the room, the boys were completely silent.
They finally got it.
To all our veterans, past and present, thank you for all you do for our country, for all your sacrifices in protecting us and keeping us safe.
We know you have always gotten it.