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I was five years old when I was delivered to the Children's Home Society Orphanage in Jacksonville, Florida. I was not sure what all I done to cause this to happen to me. All I knew for sure is that I was confused and scared. I was told to get out of the big, black car that brought me to this place.

"Give me that damn flag," screamed the mean old man standing in front of me.

I carefully reached out and I handed him the American flag - a present that some strange man bought for me when we stopped at a fruit stand.

"Welcome to America young man. This is a wonderful country," he had said when he handed me the flag.

The man grabbed the flag from my hand and threw it on the ground. As fast as I could, I ran over and I picked it up.

"The American flag is never supposed to touch the ground. Now I will have to burn it, like the rule says," I noted.

"Shut up and stand at attention," he demanded.

He once again grabbed the flag from my hand, broke the flagstaff in half and threw it back on the ground.

"I said stand at attention!" he yelled.

I just stood there looking at him. I had not the slightest idea what he was talking about.

"What's attention?" I asked, as I was about to cry.

"Put you damn arms down by your side and stand up straight," he insisted.

"I'm standing straight up, mister," I said.

He reached out, grabbed me by the nose and pinched it as hard as he could.

"Don't you back talk me, boy. Do you understand me?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," I replied.

"Can I have my American flag back now?" I asked.

He reached out and twisted my nose. Then he let it go and backed up. He reached down, picked up the flag and held it toward me. I reached out to take it from his hand.

"I said stand at attention!" he yelled as he snatched the flag back.

I jerked my hand back to my side. He walked over to the big, black car and threw the American Flag into the front seat.

"Take that damn flag back to Lakeland when you go," he told the woman who had brought me to the orphanage.

"But it's my flag. The man at the fruit stand bought it for me and he told me that I was going to find America," I yelled.

"Don't' you raise your voice at me," he said.

The man walked over to me, jerked both my arms down to my sides and then pressed his hand into the small of my back, making my stomach stick out.

"I'm not going to tell you again to stand there at attention. Do you understand that, young man?" he stated.

I could feel the tears rolling down both my cheeks. I had been beaten many times by my grandparents, but they never could make me cry.

"Take the little bastard over and give him a bath," said the head matron.

I don't know what it was about that particular flag that was so special to me, but whatever it was, what little bit of heart I had left was totally crushed that day. That was almost 51 years ago this week. Every time I hear The Star Spangled Banner and salute my country’s flag, I can feel those same slow tears rolling down my cheeks.

There is a flag on my porch and one in my living room standing in a vase on the fireplace mantel.

I love my country very much, but if we ever go to a ball game together and you see a tear in my eye when they play The Star Spangle Banner, I thought maybe you'd like to know the reason why.

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