Colleen Katzenberger Coursey

Flag Day through the eyes of a Gold Star Spouse

June 14, 2018 - 9:53 am
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by Colleen Katzenberger Coursey, Special to ConnectingVets.com 

My late husband, U.S. Army Ranger Staff Sergeant Jeremy A. Katzenberger, was killed in action on June 14, 2011. Despite my years of patriotism and military involvement, at the time, I was surprised to learn that June 14th is also designated as an official holiday, Flag Day. As June 14th approached this year, I have found myself contemplating the irony of Flag Day also marking the anniversary of Jeremy’s death. The American Flag is a symbol of so many things for so many people.

When Jeremy first donned the U.S. Army uniform, I remember asking why the flag on his right shoulder uniform was backwards. If you’ve never noticed, the flag has the blue square with stars in the upper right-hand corner compared to the traditional upper left corner. Jeremy explained, “the flag is like that on our uniform because we are the Americans willing to move towards danger in order to protect the flag and our country. If it were a real flag and we were carrying it, this is the direction the flag would blow as we run towards the danger.” I remember pausing after his explanation to contemplate the weight of what he had just explained. He was willing to run towards danger in order to protect this country, to protect America. Not many Americans, including myself, could say I would run towards danger to defend America.

During my time as a Ranger Wife, I gained a deeper appreciation towards the American Flag. I found myself much more aware of political turmoil and the line that tends to divide Americans. However, I also came to understand how thankful I was for many of my American freedoms. Although far from perfect, this is a country that continues to strive to be the best. When you look at Her history, there  are controversies and moments of shame for this country for sure. But, there are also moments of great pride and progress. Moments where you can see Her continuous strive toward Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

With so much of the controversy surrounding current day patriotism and politics, I can’t help but wonder if Jeremy would still be willing to run towards danger to protect our country? Would he still take pride in donning the backwards American Flag? It’s been seven years since Jeremy died and I feel the political turmoil of this country has only gotten worse. Nevertheless, I have a strong conviction Jeremy would still be willing to run towards the danger and to lay down his life to protect the freedoms we enjoy.  

 

Colleen Katzenberger Coursey

 

Personally, when I think about my relationship with the American Flag and what it means to me, my mind always goes to the day a folded flag was handed to me and my seven-month-old son. The American Flag not only represents my belief in the progression of this county, the Flag also represents a great sacrifice by my family to support that progression. I watched a flag dawn the casket of my deceased twenty-six-year old husband. I watched as some of our closest family members and friends carried the weight of that casket, figuratively and literally. I watched those men then take great care and precision to fold that flag in a perfect triangle. And, that perfect triangle was handed to me by a highly decorated three-star Army General to solidify the end of my marriage and Jeremy’s life. That Flag now sits in a beautiful, protective case in our living room as a constant reminder of the man no longer with us. The American Flag has heavy symbolism for me.

Yet, even with the heaviness, the American Flag is something I take great pride in displaying. I truly wish more Americans could embrace the symbolism of progression the American Flag stands to represent. This Flag Day represents seven years of truly knowing the weight and sacrifice the folded flag carries. Yet, I will continue to display the folded flag in my home and a flying flag on the exterior of my home. I never wish my perspective upon other Americans because it comes with great sacrifice. However, I do wish the American Flag would become a respected symbol of progression and sacrifice by Americans again. Perhaps that respect could be shown by displaying and respecting the flag this Flag Day.

 

Colleen Katzenberger Coursey is a Gold Star Spouse. Her husband Staff Sgt Jeremy Katzenberger was killed on  June 14th, 2011 in the Paktika Province of Afghanistan while serving with the 1st Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment.  She currently lives in Missouri where she is a high school biology teacher. As Folds of Honor scholarship recipient she now travels the country to speak about the organization and share her story.