Appreciating the flag
When David Lowe thinks of Memorial Day and the American flag, his mind jumps to standing inside a Lockheed C-130 Hercules plane, looking at the flag-draped coffins containing the remains of American soldiers who died in Iraq.
"The day is to honor those who gave — especially those who gave all," he said.
Lowe served in Iraq for a year, where he saw some of the worst atrocities being committed. Serving with the Army's Mobilized Civil Affairs Battalion, which bridges the gap between the military personnel and civilians deployed, Lowe helped oversee the construction of solar-powered street lights, clinics and playgrounds to communities in need. He also had everything that happened pass across his desk — from the awards to the deaths.
"I first joined the military because it was something to do, but I learned that being in the service is to become a part of something greater than yourself," Lowe said.
Lowe, a 62-year-old Portland resident, spent 28 years with the military. Now he's the commander-elect of the Gresham United Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 180. He's been involved with the Gresham VFW for 10 years, and will officially begin his new position in August.
For Lowe, the American flag is a symbol of honor. It reminds him of the heart and soul of the country, echoing the nation's past. The red symbolizes the blood shed by patriots, blue for the beating and bruising endured to attain peace, and the white signifies the integrity of the men and women who serve.
The flag has heard the battle cry of every American conflict for 241 years. It ushers the armed forces into dangerous and unknown lands, and escorts home those who paid the ultimate price.
"The flag remains the pinnacle of American idealism and the beacon of enduring hope for the world," Lowe said. "Our country was never designed to be perfect, but the flag stands for an idealized version of democracy we should strive for."
For Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, veterans with the Gresham VFW will place flags along Main Avenue in historic downtown as a way to remind those celebrating the unofficial start of summer that the day has a deeper meaning.
The VFW also sponsors a repurposed mail box at Gresham City Hall, where old, worn-out, torn or unserviceable flags can be dropped off and dealt with in a respectable manner.
"A flag should never be thrown away," Lowe said.