Land of the Free … Home of the Brave

By: Patti Bankson

On his 26th mission flying F86s he was shot down over the Yalu River in North Korea, and immediately captured. He was held prisoner for 8-months in a farmhouse… in isolation, except for an “old lady” at the other end of the house, and a guard. And although the guard was “nice”, an enemy guard is an enemy guard, so there was no communication between them. But sometimes the guard left to walk out in the field. And sometimes there was eye contact between the prisoner and the woman. And somehow he got her to give him a needle, thread and a pair of scissors. With those tools, a (piece of) his blue uniform sleeve, the white sheet he’d been given for his bed, a pair of the communist guard’s red underwear he’d “borrowed” off the clothesline and soap wrappers, the POW had the makings of an American flag. And make it he did. Not once, but twice. When they learned about the first one, he burned it to keep them from destroying it. Then he made another. The red underwear and the white sheet were the stripes, and the piece of his blue uniform was the field upon which he sewed soap wrapper stars. Eventually, using an article of clothing that was hollow inside – a muffler – he managed somehow to smuggle the 2nd flag home.

Major Ed Izbicky, United States Air Force (Retired) told that story – his story – at the 3rd Annual Veterans Day Celebration put on by The First Academy, where our granddaughter attends kindergarten. Their stated purpose was “to give their students the opportunity and privilege of meeting the veterans of greater Orlando, to instill in them a patriotic pride and thankfulness for our great country, and to honor and express thanks to the veterans and current military members for their many sacrifices on our behalf.” I’d give them an “A+” for Achievement!

The entire program was overwhelmingly moving from the US Navy Color Guard’s presentation of our flag to the Retiring of the Colors. We smiled as the lower school children waved small flags and enthusiastically sang, “You’re a Grand Old Flag”. We watched one of the few surviving WWI vets, 106-year old Robley Rex, speak to us, while he watched us via a live webcast! Still sharp as a tack, he’s a volunteer – not a patient – at the Louisville, Kentucky VA hospital! Teary-eyed we applauded as members of each military branch were recognized while their respective hymn was played and sung.

Oh, remember that flag Ed Izbicky made and smuggled out of Korea? It’s framed and still hangs on a wall in his home. He has never forgotten what it meant to him as a POW. It was a symbol of his faith in his country and his God; without those, he said, he wouldn’t have survived.

This Veterans Day may be history, but it’s never too late to be reminded that “the price of freedom is high. We cannot afford to forget those who are willing to pay it.” We should all daily “celebrate America’s veterans who keep this nation – one Nation under God – ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave.’ ” (The First Academy/The National Anthem)

Send your comments and criticisms to pbankson@cfl.rr.com2007 Patti Bankson

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