As an Air Force Junior ROTC Cadet at Neosho High School, I took over flag detail each morning once I became an officer and a flight commander. While students gathered in the halls and in the cafeteria, I would round up a trio to raise the flag. At that time, the flag pole stood on the north end of the building adjacent to both the front parking lot and Hill Street. Today, the high school's flag pole is situated near the main entrance and is lit 24/7 so there's no need for a daily flag detail.
Not only did I often raise it, I also often was involved in lowering the flag at the end of the school day.
I was also proud to be a member of both Color Guard and Drill Team.
At many events, including numerous Wildcat home football games, I put up my hair, donned my uniform, and carried Old Glory onto the field for the National Anthem. Sometimes I carried the Missouri flag or one of the mock weapons but most often, I remember bearing the American flag with pride.
I will never forget the sound of the Star Spangled Banner in the autumn air or the faces of the crowd as I faced them. Hats were off, hands were placed over hearts, there were some salutes and many sang along.
Time passes and customs change. During the time my son was in the Missouri 41st AFJROTC cadet corps, they didn't carry the flag onto the field to present the colors as we once did but they raised the flag at a flagpole on the south end of the field. I was privileged to present many times, as a parent, as a Wildcat, and for the paper.
Time not only has passed but some things have changed.
In those years when I carried the colors onto the football field, I remember a patriotic pride that went beyond political parties. There were Republicans and Democrats and some elections were waged with passion but at the end of the day, under those Friday Night Lights, in a small town in America, we were all Americans.
Although I'm aware that the terms right and left existed, there wasn't such a divide between the parties nor was there such open enmity. Terms like "rethuglicans" or "democRATS" had not been coined and as Americans, it seemed the majority of us could agree to disagree.
I love my country. I consider myself to be patriotic. My husband, my father, my grandfathers, my uncles, some cousins and ancestors back to the Revolutionary War have served this country.
The Star Spangled Banner is my national anthem. Today, in a different world, there is a move to change the national anthem. It's been called racist, based on a few lines from verses most Americans don't even know. History stands as a testament to the past. It shouldn't be erased and we, as a nation, should learn from it not delete it.
So, I still stand for the flag and I stand for the Star Spangled Banner, for as long it shall wave.
-Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy is community editor for The Neosho Daily News and The Aurora Advertiser. She is also an author.