When I was a boy, all I knew about the national anthem was that when they played it at high school football games, you were supposed to stand and put your right hand over your heart, even if you were playing in the game and were on the field warming up.

That requirement came from my dad, who was born in Canada and was not an American citizen until he volunteered for the army in December 1942 and was sworn in as a citizen shortly thereafter. He probably could have avoided military service but that was not the way he lived or what he believed in and so he was soon in the middle of the South Pacific helping to build makeshift air fields. He did that until he almost died from a sickness that he contracted and had to be sent back to a military hospital in Arkansas.

He loved this country and he died in a VA hospital in 2009. I also had a great-uncle who was a veteran of World War I who lived with his mustard gas disfiguration until he died in a VA facility in Richmond many years ago. It is good that neither of these true patriots has to see the contemptible dishonor of our flag and anthem being displayed today.

I learned more about honoring the national anthem when I was drafted into the army in 1966 and spent a year in Vietnam, where I attended a number of ceremonies for comrades who were not as lucky as me, and the anthem was played over a loudspeaker and the commanding officer said a few words. I can honestly say that when that music was played, I felt a deeply moving reaction and I can’t to this day hear that beautiful song without tears in my eyes.

Several of those fallen were Black men and there was never any difference in my intensity of feeling for those GIs. One of my friends was a Black man from Detroit named Jon. He knew I was from the South and he used to tease me about my background, but we got along so well that I would consider him to have been one of my best friends there.

I lost track of him years ago but I would really like to hear his opinion about the present disparagement of everything patriotic that the leftists in the “cancel culture” are espousing. I’m pretty sure that this good man would not be appreciative of their contrived indignation about these precious symbols of our country, which is quite simply the best place on earth in which to live — for all.

Paul Duffy

Rocky Mount