National Anthem has meaning and memories

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. -- While on base, it is customary to stop your car and sit still while the National Anthem is playing. 

But as I hear the opening trumpet start, I pull to the side, turn my vehicle off, and I get out. Without fail, I notice the people around me sitting in their vehicles staring at me. More than likely they are asking themselves, "What is this guy doing?" 

Once the Anthem starts, I stand at attention and salute. No, it's not required but I do it anyway. 

When the anthem plays, it is more than just music. I think of a time when I was a young Joint Terminal Attack Controller assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division responsible for directing close air support (air strikes) on a battlefield in southern Iraq. 

I think of my Army brothers who paid the ultimate sacrifice with their coffins draped by the American Flag just like the one that is waving in front of me, being raised or lowered. I think of the atrocities that were being committed in Bosnia, and the responsibility that I and my brother Airmen and Soldiers were given to stop both sides from fighting. 

I think of all the far away lands my old job took me and the wonderful feeling when I returned home. I think about how great it felt to see the Statue of Liberty after my second tour in Iraq. Finally, I think about my two young sons who have followed in their father's footsteps, serving in Iraq, one a sniper and the other a door gunner on a Blackhawk. 

You can only imagine the great sense of pride that runs through my heart when I think of my sons. I also pray everyday for their safe return and envy the great experiences and feelings they will both have when they return home. 

When the Anthem is over and I get back into my vehicle, I buckle my seatbelt and drive away. Sometimes people pass and stare at me, some just wait behind, but you can tell they are annoyed having to wait those 10 seconds for me to put my seatbelt on and get my vehicle moving again. 

It is important to remember the American Flag means something different to everyone. For all those who stare, this is just a small insight as to what it means to me. I am not apologizing to anyone for what I do, I am just explaining why I choose to do this. 

So the next time you see me pull over and get out of my vehicle, just remember why and please be patient with me.