A Salute to Our Veterans

guest post by Jeff Zylstra, Community Manager, Royal Park Place and Royal Atrium Inn

Cal Klokkert

It is an annual tradition for Royal Park Place and Royal Atrium Inn (Providence communities in Zeeland, Michigan) to host a Fathers Day event. This year we invited Mr. Cal Klokkert, a Johnny Cash impersonator, to entertain us.

The program was exceptional! Mr. Klokkert intermingled songs with biographical information that made “The Man in Black” come to life.

Toward the end of the program, Mr. Klokkert asked if there were any veterans in the room. Although I didn’t have time to count, I was amazed that about one-third of the hundred men in the room raised their hands. There were World War II veterans, Vietnam veterans, Korean War veterans, and Gulf War veterans. Before the rest of us had time to applaud, Mr. Klokkert asked two veterans to help him with his next song.

Don Schrock, a Royal Park Place resident, and his son-in-law Warren Harding walked to the front. Mr. Klokkert carefully unfolded a tattered American flag and asked them to hold it while he sang Johnny Cash’s “Ragged Old Flag.”

Ragged Old Flag

RAGGED OLD FLAG


I walked through a county courthouse square—
on a park bench, an old man was sittin’ there.
I said, “Your old courthouse is kinda run down.”
He said, “Naw, it’ll do for our little town.”
I said, “Your old flagpole is leaned a little bit,
and that’s a ragged old flag you got hangin’ on it.”
He said, “Have a seat,” and I sat down.
“Is this the first time you’ve come to our little town?”
I said, “I think it is.” He said, “I don’t like to brag,
but we’re kinda proud of that ragged old flag.”


“You see, we got a little hole in that flag there,
when Washington took it across the Delaware.
And it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key
sat up watching it, writing ‘O Say Can You See.’
It got a rip in New Orleans,
with Pakenham & Jackson tugging at its seams.
And it almost fell at the Alamo—
beside the Texas flag—but she waved on though.
She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville,
and she got cut again at Shiloh Hill.
There was Robert E. Lee, and Beauregard and Bragg,
and the south wind blew hard on that ragged old flag.


“On Flanders Field in World War I,
she took a bad hit from a Bertha gun.
She turned blood-red in World War II.
She hung limp and low by the time that one was through.
She was in Korea and Vietnam—
she went where she was sent by her Uncle Sam.
The Native American, Black, Brown, Yellow, White—
all shed red blood for the stars and stripes.


“In her own good land here she’s been abused—
she’s been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused.
And the very government for which she stands
has been scandalized throughout out the land.
She’s getting threadbare, and she’s wearin’ thin,
But she’s in good shape, for the shape she’s in.
She’s been through the fire before,
and I believe she can take a whole lot more.
So we raise her up every morning,
and we bring her down slowly every night.
We don’t let her touch the ground,
And we fold her up right.


“On second thought, I guess I do like to brag!
Because I’m mighty proud of that ragged old flag.”

saluting the flag

It’s a moving song, and Mr. Klokkert’s embodiment of American icon Johnny Cash made it even more powerful. At the end of the song, Royal Park Place resident Herb Maatman couldn’t help but stand up and salute the flag that he and so many others had fought to protect. I will never forget the image of veterans Don and Warren holding a “ragged old flag” while veteran Herb stood proudly and saluted.

As we approach the celebration of our nation’s independence, I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to those who have sacrificed so much so that we could enjoy such liberty. I count it an honor to work for the Providence communities in Zeeland, where I am privileged to serve so many members of America’s Greatest Generation.

Happy Independence Day! God Bless America!

Jeff Zylstra, Community Manager a a a

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