Robert D. Gates
United States Air Force, Sergeant (Vietnam War, Honorable Discharge)
Police Detective Sergeant, US Marshall (retired)
Robert D. Gates is the father of two boys. One of those boys happens to be me. Come to think of it, he'd laugh at the term "boy" as he always stated that he raised men. He said that before I was even old enough to know what that meant. He's also a son himself. His father, Bob, didn't necessarily realize (or at least appreciate) the man he raised. But he raised one just the same.
The Gates men, if nothing else, have an extremely strong sense of respect for our country. Patriotism. I don't mean this in the sense of the term that seems to heed political affiliation. Rather, I mean this to say that we have an extremely strong appreciation for the great freedoms we're allowed as citizens of our country.
That freedom is often symbolized in our flag. 50 stars. 13 stripes. The United State of America. And part of our time-honored tradition as Americans is the singing of the national anthem. It doesn't matter that we weren't raised as singers, because we damn sure weren't (not for lack of trying, rather for lack of talent). The singing isn't the point. The point is the attention and honor paid during which the song is sung. The rules my father taught us are quite simple.
This flag and this anthem, they mean something. Men and women died for our right to stand here and pay respect. So pay up.
Your eyes stay fixed on the flag during the entire duration of the anthem. No exceptions.
Stand up straight. Swaying or shifting of weight is not to be tolerated. Imagine you are "at attention."
Take off your fucking hat.
Your hands can be respectfully clasped (one over the other) in front of you or behind you. Option two is your right hand over your heart. Salutes are reserved for those in the appropriate uniforms. (If you have to ask, you aren't wearing the correct uniform.)
No talking, laughing or playing grabass during the anthem. Ever.
Singing is optional. It is only to be done respectfully if done at all.
Absolutely no chewing of gum (or anything else) permitted.
Sadly, even the simplest of these rules are often neglected by the hundreds (if not thousands) in the crowd who insist on being disrespectful with their fellow assholes. This is not sad just for the fact that they are being disrespectful. This is actually more saddening due to the fact that is has become the norm.
I've often wanted to conduct an experiment; I want to know if people would show the same lack of disrespect if that flag they were supposed to be honoring was draped over a casket of a fallen soldier. A hero. Would they finally understand the impact then?
One way to tell the mark of a true man? His respect.
As a patriot.
As an American.
As a man.