One year at Christmas-time, a package arrived in my mail post-marked Washington, DC. It was from a Congresswoman who represented a district in Florida. I had never met her.
I opened the package and found our Nation's flag with a certificate that said that it had flown over the dome of America's Capitol in Washington. I eventually figured out that the flag came to me courtesy of one of the most remarkable people I've ever met.
His name was Arthur J. Johns -- Chief Johns. At the time I met him, he was in his 80s and was quite blind. He had been Provost Marshal and Chief of Security at the large Army base called Camp Drum in Central New York for much of his career. He was very proud of that service.
Chief Johns was also proud of the fact that during World War II, he was in charge of the detention of German prisoners of war who had been brought to the United States for the duration of the war.
In those terrible years, some of the combatant nations treated prisoners very brutally. Not Chief Johns. Many of these soldiers were mere teenagers who had been drafted by the Nazi government to fight in its unjust war. Chief Johns saw to it that they were treated humanely. Because of people like Chief Johns, America had nothing to be ashamed of after the war.
To get a gift of our Nation's flag from such a great man is an honor beyond all description. It is the most precious thing I have.
One last bit of information you'll need to appreciate the thought: In the captive nation of Tibet, devout Buddhists write prayers on little flags and leave them fluttering in the breeze. You see them everywhere. The custom is sort of like the votive candles that some Christians light in churches.
(For Chief Arthur J. Johns)
This morning's mail brought some surprise.
What a sight did meet my eyes
When I had all the wrapping stripped
From a parcel small and nondescript.
I there beheld a gift from you --
A gift of red and white and blue.
It seems to me that year I found
That there are poets all around;
Blessed with vision instead of sight;.
Whose poems they do not have to write;
Who reach across the miles and years
And move a fellow man to tears.
Be well advised, your gift did please,
And when it's streaming in the breeze
I'll think of you and what you've done
And feel as though I were your son.
And while I tend to my affairs --
Well, I've heard that some say that flags are prayers.
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