'Daily NewsMakers with Jeff Lytle' ... Local patriots reflect on the meaning of our flag

Three leaders of Collier County’s community of armed services veterans are guests on this week’s “Naples Daily NewsMakers with Jeff Lytle” program this morning at 10 on ABC7.

“The Patriots II” is a sequel to last year’s popular program with the same lineup: Normandy veteran Peter Thomas, Collier Veterans Council President Jim Elson and Homer Helter of Homer Helter’s Antique and Military Mall in North Naples.

They discuss the American flag, war trauma and veterans health care.

Video highlights are online at naplesnews.com/newsmakers.

Here is an excerpt:

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NewsMakers: The Patriots II, Part 1

They discuss war trauma.

NewsMakers: The Patriots II, Part 2

They discuss the American flag.

NewsMakers: The Patriots II, Part 3

They discuss veterans health care.

Lytle: Can you sum up for us what the American flag means to each of you?

Thomas: It means to me America. It means the history of our country. It means to me all the wonderful patriots who’ve gone before and the patriots that we have living today and I hope we always have that respect and that love for that flag.

I know the other day something came out of New York. At a flag ceremony they’re supposed to sing “God Bless America” and they’re not going to be able to sing it because you can’t say “God.” That bothers me because I think the flag and singing about America is basic to teaching our young people what a great country we have here and have enjoyed and many have died to give us.

Lytle: Jim, you’re a student of the flag.

Elson: Very much so. I was fortunate to have been born and raised in the town of Concord, Mass., which happens to be where the first armed resistance against the king of England was on April 19, 1775. That was the very first battle of the War for Independence and so I grew up with that in my daily life and it’s also a site where the Continental Congress met before planning what to do. So to me the flag represents what Thomas Jefferson wrote into the Constitution about liberties and certain rights and to have our own independence to create our own decisions. That needed a symbol; it needed a flag of honor; and so the flag was designed a certain way with the number 13 being the primary reason for 13 stars and 13 stripes for the 13 colonies. ... The flag came a few years later, but it was all based on that Declaration of Independence.

Lytle: Homer, you get to hear from a lot of the experts — the veterans who gather at your business every day; it’s like a hub.

Helter: Well, I can tell you that nothing I can say that’s better than what these two guys just talked about, but I can tell you that my hope is that our kids growing up get to know and understand the flag as much as our generations did and if you see a flag on TV usually somebody’s burning it for some reason.

I go through a lot of flags — you know, I’m a flag store — and you can retire them there and sometimes it gets to me. I’ll cry easy over the American flag. That’s us — the greatest country in the world. That’s us — freedom. That’s it — everything’s right there in that flag.

© 2012 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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