A flag tale

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Since this is just before Saturday's Flag Day, it seemed appropriate to tell a flag tale that involves the banner of the United States of America.

The scene sets on the Amphibious Force Base in Coronado, Calif., back in the early 1950s. The event was presentation of a medal to a U.S. Marine that he had earned in the Korean War. Presentations were to be in the office of Brigadier General Chesty Puller.

For you non-military types, Puller was the most decorated U.S. Marine of his era. He earned the nickname for his manner and straight-forward command decisions that were successful during his two wars.

Gen. Puller was in command of the Amphibious Training Command, housed on the same base as the Pacific Amphibious Command, and relied on our office to take care of their public relations activities, having no personnel of this type in their ranks.

Assigned job

It must have been my time in the barrel when a call came from Puller's people for a PIO team to be in his office at a certain date. The requested stressed to be at least 15 minutes before the assigned time of the medal ceremony.

My favorite photographer and I -- uniforms for the occasion -- were in the outer office about 30 minutes early, for which we were complimented. About 10 minutes before the appointed time, in came the Marine to be honored, and we were informed to follow.

Gen. Puller went through the usual procedure of visiting with the Marine, reading the commendation and then pinning the Silver Star on the uniform of the honoree.

Then he turned to us about information for the picture taking part of the ceremony.

Nearly abused

It was my job to choose a background for the photo, and looking around the office, it appeared the best spot was in front of the American Flag behind his desk, so that suggestion was made.

Almost immediately, the general nearly flipped his lid, letting me know that the American Flag was not to be used as a background for any purpose.

It was his belief that the Flag should always be in the forefront, but never, never, in the background.

He made his point as only Chesty Puller could. Although small in stature, he could and did land on me with a tongue lashing like never heard previously. When he had finished, he went behind his desk, sat down and excused us.

As we started out the door, he instructed his aide to have us wait a minute, which he took to issue somewhat of an apology for some of his language and for striking out at the photo team as he did. He told us that it was his dedication to the USA and the Corps that made him such a strict individual so far as anything connected to the country was concerned.

Even though we were inside, the both of us saluted him smartly, and let him know we understood.

Today's media

This incident comes back to memory each and every time today's photojournalists seem to revel in using the American Flag as a background for anything connected with military personnel. Perhaps procedures have changed, and maybe it is more appropriate these days to use such a background, but Brig. Chesty Puller, a hero of World War II and Korea, would never agree.

More than likely, if that profession were one that still involved me, this incident would still be in mind and the general's opinion would be followed.

Past rainfalls

Some of the rain showers that came though this area last week were the heaviest we've been blessed with in quite some time. In the height last Thursday's rain, a discussion developed at Allen Sparks' A-J Gun Shop.

The conversations were centered around what rains of this intensity were once called and are seldom heard these days.

It was decided that cloudbursts that once visited this area almost always sent torrential waters gushing through Cassville.

Most normally, toad stranglers would do the same thing along the middle part of town. With both amounts of rain sending Flat Creek out of its banks before Missouri installed a storm sewer system at mid-town.

Then, there were the rains that were of the cat and dog variety, which never really seemed to stress the intensity of moisture falling out of the sky.

It really doesn't matter what they are called these days, as long as Mother Nature and the Good Lord keep sending the rains this way. These old Ozarks Hills never looked any better.

If you have doubts, drive down to the Rose Strawberry farm on Highway NN, off Missouri 90 west of Washburn, as you will not find a better view.

It's too late for strawberries, but the view is fabulous.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.