This 4th of July finds our nation awash in debates over flags and heritage. Like many of us in this region, my roots run deep in the south on both sides of my family. My mother’s grandfather ran off in his early teens from his middle Georgia family farm to join the Army of Northern Virginia. He became a scout, was captured, and spent the end of the war in a horrible Union prison camp in Point Lookout, Maryland. My father’s great grandfather fared better as a Confederate Colonel in the Calvary in northern Florida but saw action in the Battle of Olustee and in subsequent actions near Jacksonville. In March 1865, he and his men played a prominent role in the Battle of Natural Bridge.
There has been a lot of talk as to what led political leaders into succession and rebellion. As for my family members, the only written accounts that we have for their reasons for fighting focused on their homes and loved ones. After the war, neither man wallowed in the past but returned home and worked to rebuild their families and communities. J.J. Dennard returned to Wilcox County and his farm, had 16 children (my maternal grandfather being one of his youngest), and served in the Georgia General Assembly. Colonel George Washington Scott settled down first in Savannah and then Atlanta, became a successful businessman, and provided the money for a women’s college in Decatur which was named for his mother, Agnes Scott.
I am proud of the legacy and heritage that these men left my family and respect the tragedy and horrors they faced in war. I do not want our nation to ever forget the lessons and scars that the Civil War — or any war — left us. But the Battle Flag for the Army of Northern Virginia is not my flag. My flag is the one that still earlier relatives fought under to create this nation. My flag is the one that later family members and close friends fought under in Europe, the Pacific, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. My flag is the one that stands as a beacon for hope, liberty, and freedom in a troubled world.
This 4th of July and every other day of the year, the only flag I want to honor is the one young American men and women around the world wear on their uniforms today and keep silent vigil to protect us all. My heritage and my flag has stars and stripes.
I hope everyone has a great 4th of July.