As citizens who have forsaken their safety to protect and serve the United State of America, veterans known first hand the importance that the American flag bears as it waves from flagpoles and home fronts on national holidays.
Turlock local H.J. “Bud” Leam understands the deep significance of the American flag as a veteran of World War II who served in the Air Force between 1943 and 1945. Leam was a trained radio operator gunner on B24 bombers and flew troop carriers between India and China in the 1940s. Having been awarded two distinguished flying crosses and two air medals, American patriotism has played an enormous role in Leam’s life. The gravity of the time period in which he served, where America significantly restored order in the world, has also impacted his feeling towards the American flag.
“In my opinion, people of today do not respect the flag that much. They don’t really obey flag etiquette. You’re not suppose to hang an American flag in the rain or in the dark so you should take it down each evening and I just don’t see that,” said Leam.
Leam has his own flag pole in his front yard where he proudly flies his flag on appropriate holidays and it stands as a symbol of American freedom. Leam notes that serving in the military not only protects America but also provides soldiers insight into the importance of American values.
“The flag is a symbol of our freedom and unless you have traveled, and I don’t necessarily mean in the service, you don’t really know how much you should appreciate it,” said Leam.
When the haunting attack of Sept. 11, 2001 occurred on domestic soil, it was dishearteningly apropos that Leam was in the company of his fellow World War II Squadron 27 veterans at a reunion. The activities were put on hold as people gathered around a television to witness the footage play over and over.
“The group there was a little different breed than ordinary citizens, they were combat veterans, and the biggest emotion that everyone had was disbelief. It was just unbelievable,” said Leam.
Leam explained that the swell in patriotism among Americans in the wake of the disaster of September 11th was preceded by the disbelief and anger at such an event. As someone who had served to protect the United States from such an attack, Leam and his comrades were overwhelmed to be watching the tragedy on a television almost 60 years after their own service.
“We were just emotionally exhausted at the end of the day,” said Leam.
As citizens continue to fly their American flags and honor those who have served especially on national holidays, veterans like Leam will continue to feel the swell of patriotism in their chests and remember their own days of service that have kept America the land of the free.