The late entertainer Johnny Cash was more than just a singer- he was an Air Force veteran and a man who loved his country.
In an interview done during his lifetime, Cash -who had served as a communications intercept operator during the Cold War and left a Staff Sergeant- expressed how, despite his love of his freedoms, he couldn’t help but wish there were protections against burning the flag.
“When I see somebody or hear about burning the flag, I think about the time that June and I went to Vietnam,” he recalled, speaking of his wife. “In 1969, I saw the burning flesh. Boys coming in from the helicopters on the stretchers with burning flesh, falling off from the napalm on their bodies. You never forget the smell of that.”
For Cash, he equated the burning of the flag with dishonoring those men, regardless of whether or not the Vietnam War was “right” or “wrong.”
“Americans were there dying for me, and for that flag,” he said.
While he felt that people who want to burn the flag should go to Iran, he also recognized the Constitution’s protection of flag-burning.
“I still cherish those freedoms,” he said. “If I get a week off next week, I can go and do anything I want to in these United States. There’s not many countries you can do that in. I cherish all of the freedoms we got, including the freedom…The right to burn the flag. But I also got the right to bear arms- if you burn mine, I’ll shoot you.”
Cash then recited the lyrics from his song, Ragged Old Flag, which talked about a tattered flag in a small town that was (symbolically) flown over every major battle in American History.
Cash died in 2003, four months after losing his wife to surgery complications.
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