Preserving the Fabric of Our Nation
Last year on Veterans Day, I had the privilege of speaking at the National Museum of the Pacific War’s annual ceremony in Fredericksburg, Texas. In attendance were veterans and their family members representing virtually every major military conflict in the past seven decades, including the oldest member of the audience, U.S. Navy veteran Sam Sorenson – born in 1916. We were gathered in the museum’s Memorial Courtyard, a beautiful space spotted with large oak trees and surrounded by old limestone walls that hold more than 1,000 plaques honoring individuals, ships, and units that served in the Pacific during the Second World War. The program included a musical performance, the Presentation of the Colors and remarks by my good friend General Michael Hagee, 33rd Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, and current CEO & President of the Admiral Nimitz Foundation. After I delivered my remarks, I had the chance to meet many of the veterans in attendance.
As I took in the setting—the dedicated plaques and park benches, the memorials, the veterans and their families, and the many local residents who took the time to attend the ceremony—I was moved by the sense of community, pride and patriotism that marked the ceremony. As the event concluded and I made my way to the exit, one of the museum’s staffers reminded me of the new George H.W. Bush Gallery, which had been completed since my last visit to the museum. With a little time to spare, I gladly accepted the invitation to tour the new wing.
The gallery was exceptional. As the son of a World War II B-17 bomber pilot, I could have easily spent hours there, examining each carefully assembled exhibit in detail. One exhibit, however, caught my attention and stayed with me long after I’d left the museum. It was a battle-worn American flag, which, along with its incredible story, was donated to the museum by Marble Falls resident Pat Spain. In 1942, while serving in the U.S. Army on the island of Mindanao, Spain’s husband Paul and fellow soldiers Joe Victoria and Eddie Lindros were ordered to burn the U.S. flag at the Del Monte Airfield to prevent its capture by the approaching Japanese. Before they carried out their orders, however, the three soldiers removed the flag’s 48 stars and hid them in their clothing. Over the next 42 months, the men were transferred to several POW camps and eventually to Japan. All the while, they kept the stars hidden. As the war came to a close, the men began receiving parachute drops with food and aid, which signaled that their liberation was imminent. Spain, Victoria and Lindros wanted to make the U.S. troops feel welcome when they arrived, so they set out to sew the stars back together, using material from the parachutes and other scraps of fabric, an old pedal-driven sewing machine they managed to find, and a rusty nail, which they converted into a sewing needle. When the American troops arrived at the camp on September 7, 1945, their “new” flag was flying proudly over the camp.
Today, as we prepare to mark another Veterans Day, I’m reminded of the stars of the flag from Mindanao and the story of three brave service members who risked their lives preserving the very fabric of our nation. It is because of these men, and the generations of Americans who served before and after them, that we enjoy our freedoms, our way of life, and our safety. I hope we can show our gratitude and support to our veterans and the greater military community not just on Veterans Day but on every day of the year.
Photo: Courtesy of National Museum of the Pacific War.
Sen. Cornyn serves on the Finance, Judiciary, Armed Services, and Budget Committees. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee's Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District Judge.