A protest raged on a courthouse lawn,
Round a makeshift stage they charged on,
Fifteen hundred or more they say,
Had come to burn a Flag that day.
A boy held up the folded Flag,
Cursed it, and called it a dirty rag.
An old man pushed through the angry crowd,
With a rusty shotgun shouldered proud.
His uniform jacket was old and tight,
He had polished each button, shiny and bright.
He crossed that stage with a soldier's grace,
Until he and the boy stood face to face.
"Freedom of speech", the old man said,
"Is worth dying for, good men are dead,
So you can stand on this courthouse lawn,
And talk us down from dusk to dawn,
But before any Flag gets burned today,
This old man is going to have his say!
My father died on a foreign shore,
In a war they said would end all wars.
But Tommy and I wasn't even full grown,
Before we fought in a war of our own.
And Tommy died on Iwo Jima's beach,
In the shadow of a hill he couldn't quite reach
Where five good men raised this Flag so high,
That the whole world could see it fly.
I got this bum leg that I still drag,
Fighting for this same old Flag.
Now there's but one shot in this old gun,
So now it's time to decide which one,
Which one of you will follow our lead,
To stand and die for what you believe?
For as sure as there is a rising sun,
You'll burn in hell 'fore this Flag burns, son.
Now this riot never came to pass
The crowd got quiet and that can of gas,
Got set aside as they walked away
To talk about what they had heard this day.
And the boy who had called it a "dirty rag",
Handed the old soldier the folded Flag.
So the battle of the Flag this day was won
By a tired old soldier with a rusty gun,
Who for one last time, had to show to some,
This flag may fade, yet these colors don't run!
[ by Grantland Rice -- from Bill Rayborn ]
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