OP-ED: When symbols and actions go hand-in-hand

Just a few weeks ago I had the privilege and honor to attend the U.S. Army’s change of command ceremony of the 40th Infantry Division at the Joint Forces Training Facility in Los Alamitos. On display were some of our finest soldiers and their commanding officers. Flags representing the various infantry units, from the California Army National Guard, were in their full regalia showcased by the color guard while marching with pride. The very next day many of these soldiers left for a mission to Afghanistan.

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Key amongst the flags was the stars and stripes – old glory as she is sometimes referred to.

The recent debate over NFL players kneeling during the playing of the national anthem had me reflecting on the day I spent with the men and women of the 40th Infantry as a new general took command.
 
From their perspective, the flag is a representation of our nation’s values and history. It is more than a symbol; it’s a creed by which our military and citizenry dedicate their actions to support their country, their family and their communities. Part of The Soldier’s Creed is: I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
 
There is a deep meaning behind the flag. The aims, goals and convictions of the colors represent hardiness and valor (Red), purity and innocence (White), and vigilance, perseverance and justice (Blue). As an immigrant, I see no greater symbol of freedom.
 
Our nation is not perfect, but we must recognize we are a work in progress. Often referred to as the great experiment, the United States has continually been challenged from within and abroad - and we have always found a way through the turmoil.
 
As social and political issues rise and pass, we can always expect change in these two landscapes. What we can count on during these times, however, is the tradition of perseverance, struggle and victory our flag represents.
 
Bringing to light a cause or issue around social injustice or indignities is part of the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. Protesting is also an American right each of us can invoke as we see fit.
 
But we should also remind ourselves that our flag has given hope to generations of Americans and to the world in times of crisis. We should understand that our flag has raised our spirits when things seemed low and no matter the cause we have all looked to our flag to represent either side of an issue.
 
As I reflected on that day with our troops, I thought that as Americans, we can surely agree that as long as our flags stands for our struggles and victories, we should stand as she waves.
 
Mario A. Guerra is the former mayor of Downey and current Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army. He can be reached atwww.marioaguerra.com