From a perch 120 feet above the ground, the red, white and blue of the American flag seemed more vibrant and colorful than ever before.

For an assignment that appeared in Monday's paper, I interviewed Doug Gefvert, who plays the carillon in the bell tower in Valley Forge National Historical Park at the Washington Memorial Chapel.

Gefvert and I ascended the spiral staircase as we had the previous summer to get a closer look at the bells.

He played a march for me that he'd composed only a few weeks before in honor of a visiting French dignitary. Seems the French haven't forgotten the Revolutionary War, either.

Gefvert even let me bang a couple of paddles and ring some bells that I'm sure a jogger or two in the park wondered about.

Without doubt though, the highlight of the day was the chance to watch the American flag rise from the top of that tower higher than anything else around. Imagine the moment! For the next six months an American flag that I'd helped run up a pole would grace one of the most sacred areas of America.

That flag will soar above the park where liberty took hold. Americans died at Valley Forge who cherished a similar flag that had graced the thirteen colonies for such a short time.

Gefvert explained how shrewd Washington had been to pick Valley Forge as the place to spend the winter. He talked about a three-sided triangle with one side river, one side mountains and with only the third side to protect. Gefvert said that the spot just below where the flag flies is likely the best place in the park to get a view and feel for Washington's defense lines.

While Gefvert went back down a ladder to fetch a tool, I was alone with the flag. The carillonneur had asked me if I was afraid of heights. I'd said yes, a little, and he'd confided that so was he. We laughed. I had that time alone to cherish the monstrosity of the moment, but with a twinge of fear.

Since then, I've thought much about fear, flags and the current war in Iraq. As visitors in a foreign land, it sadly seems that we are unwanted. Our intentions are good.

It's hard not to compare the actions of Lafayette and all those French and German soldiers who helped America gain its independence with our current invasion into Iraq. Likely, we couldn't have trounced the British if we hadn't had help and likewise Saddam Hussein might yet be in power without American intervention.

So why do most Iraqis want us to leave? And why do we stay with so many people dying? Whether it is Iraqi citizens and soldiers or American soldiers, thousands have died.

The war hit home twice recently. The first time was when I spoke with father Richard and mother Gail whose son David R. Bernstein was killed in Iraq and who graduated from Phoenixville High School.

Although I tried to mask my tears during the phone interview, I'm sure that the family felt my emotion. The father seemed to speak out of a sense of duty, just as the son had given his life.

The second time I recently experienced the war first hand was a joyful moment. Chris Clark, a soldier in Kosovo had finished his tour of duty and was home in one piece. The Phoenix's Carolyn Gerace's photo tells it all. Husband and wife smiled joyfully while the kids simply seemed relieved that daddy was home.

Those kids likely wondered what all the fuss from a couple of dozen neighbors was about. One day they will know.

Neighbors happily had shoveled snow, cut grass and done household chores in the absence of a neighbor called to defend another's country. That visit made me wonder what kind of a day it was all over America when we declared an end to World War II and the fears of so many ended.

Just recently, and sadly, photos of coffins draped with flags filled the media. And now it's photos and stories of the atrocities of war - torture - and bullying by the big boy on the block.

And to think that it might all go away if we'd only get our young men and women out of there. But then again, we do have responsibilities. In several ways we created this mess.

Is it our job to fix it? There are few Iraqi's who want to serve in their future government and Bush is betting lives that we can change things for the better by staying.

Almost everyday we hear the names of young men and women trying to look fierce and ready to battle in photos taken in front of that American flag. Sadly it is only after their bodies are prepared to be shipped back home in coffins covered by that flag that we are introduced.

If America took flight and left a country to sink or swim on its own, what would happen? By America sacrificing its young, do we save untold anguish and death, or do we simply perpetuate the slaughter? Americans aren't the only ones dying.

The time is likely long past when a stubborn America must be the world's peacekeeper. For Washington at Valley Forge, it was more than mere survival during a frigid winter. It was a battle of independence and he wanted the help.

Give Iraqi citizens a chance to fly the colors of their own flag far above the highest structure around. The sooner, the better.

comments powered by Disqus