Published in the June 27 – July 10, 2018 issue of Gilroy Life
I was raised in a patriotic family full of military service members and veterans, including my dad who was a helicopter mechanic in Vietnam. An American flag flew at my family’s home almost daily throughout the year, depending on the weather. We were taught that the flag didn’t represent politics or “sides,” but that it’s a representation of those who protect us — and a symbol of the people who make up our melting-pot country as a whole.
It’s a tradition that continues at my home, and I recently replaced my Old Glory with a new one that’s a bit different that your typical red, white and blue. One of my neighbors even stopped by recently to ask if the flag has some sort of significant meaning, and I was happy to tell them.
The stars and stripes flying on my house is black and white, with a prominent red and blue stripe in the center; the red portion showing support for firefighters and the blue for law enforcement.
After joining the military at 18 years old, my older brother returned to civilian life three years later knowing exactly what he was meant to do with his life. He’s been in law enforcement ever since; he’s currently a police sergeant looking at retirement in a few years. It will be a well-deserved retirement from a career where he’s broken bones, been punched, spit on, saved lives and seen them lost.
A family member I call my “sister” was also called to public service, and a few years ago was named the first female sheriff’s sergeant in the county where she works. On my most recent ride-along with her, there was a shooting and we were in a high-speed chase with the suspect’s vehicle. It ended with my sister’s gun drawn on the driver — a confirmed gang member.
Though my brother and sister both work in Northern California, through them I’ve met a number of police officers whom I consider friends, including at Gilroy, Morgan Hill and Watsonville police departments.
In addition, my job has led me to work with fire departments. I’m currently working with an all-volunteer department in Santa Cruz County, and its team is full of incredible folks who love their community so much that they donate their time to protect their neighbors. These are people who work full-time jobs — from paramedics to construction workers — and when their paid day is over, they’re on-call and respond to area emergencies … for nothing more than an occasional “thank you.”
For me the American flag isn’t representative of a political side or a stance on an issue. It’s simply a way to say thanks to my two great uncles who spent 3.5 years as prisoners of war during World War II; thanks to my dad for not cowering when he was drafted into an unpopular conflict; thanks to police officers who treat people as equals and go to work every day not knowing if it’s their last; thanks to firefighters — paid and volunteer — who run into dangerous situations when everyone else is running out.
It’s an inner calling to public service that I don’t quite understand, simply because I don’t have it in me. But my flag will always fly as a show of appreciation for those who do.
Happy and safe Fourth of July, everyone!
Andrea “Andi” Joseph worked in newspapers for 18 years before transitioning to her current career as a website content writer and marketer. She lives south of Gilroy with her two dogs, Bailey and Cricket. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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