Neil Carousso

Air Force vet pays lifelong homage to the American flag

June 14, 2018 - 9:07 am

By Neil A. Carousso, Special to ConnectingVets.com

Whenever James Cunningham sees the Flag of the United States of America, he salutes. Mr. Cunningham is a retired senior master sergeant with the U.S. Air Force. His 41 years of service to our nation spans active duty and Air National Guard service.

“I know the history of our country, I know what went into the first flag when it came up, and it’s always been a symbol of our country and the way that we live and I’m proud to be part of that.”

Congress authorized the United States Flag on June 14, 1777, which is now observed as Flag Day. The flag was first flown during the American Revolution at Fort Stanwix, on the site of the present city of Rome, New York, on August 3, 1777. It was first under fire for three days later in the Battle of Oriskany.

“I’ve seen a lot of flags and a lot of people who are as proud as I am and I see by the way they display it,” Cunningham said.

When the American Flag is not displayed “properly,” Mr. Cunningham politely speaks up because presentation of the flag is essential to the retired Senior Master Sergeant as a representation of our republic. Recently, Cunningham was going into a restaurant when he noticed the flag on a home next door was “disreputable” because it was in “tatters.”

“When I left the restaurant, I stopped and I rang the doorbell and the homeowner came to the door and I said, ‘Ma’am, I’m sorry to bother you, but I’ve noticed that flag flying there, but it really isn’t a good idea to keep it up the way it is because it’s torn.’”

Cunningham told the woman“You’re not giving it the proper respect.”

She explained to him that she had a new flag, but she was unable to replace it herself, so Mr. Cunningham put it up for her, replacing the old flag and giving the ripped flag a proper retirement.

“I told her, ‘You can be proud of that flag now and I’m proud that I was able to help you with that,’” Cunningham recalled with a smile on his face.

 

Neil Carousso

When Mr. Cunningham walks in parades with the Knights of Columbus, he marvels at the American Flag and salutes the 13 red and white stripes – representing the 13 British colonies that declared independence from Great Britain – and the 50 white stars on the sea of blue that symbolizes the 50 states.

Retired Sr. Master Sgt. Cunningham lights up when he spots the flag like the solar-powered landscape spotlight that shines on his flag at nighttime from the edge of the bushes on his manicured lawn.

"I salute when I come home,” said Cunningham whose children used to tease him when they were younger, but now, they understand why he pays his respects to the flag.

As he gazed at Old Glory delicately waving in the breeze in front of his Valley Stream, Long Island home, as the sun set on a beautiful spring Friday evening, Mr. Cunningham turned his head slightly, so he could still see the flag, flashed a smile, and exclaimed, “I’m proud it’s my flag.”