Posted Sept. 11, 2005
Guest Commentary: Patriotism shown after 9/11 stirs emotions
By Tony Packowski

(The author wrote down his feelings one week after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but did not share them until now. – Editor)

As I stand on the band shell stage at Washington Park, I can feel the patriotism all around me. I see a young Marine in the crowd. I think back, I see myself in him and in his uniform. How proud he must feel being in the Marines. Oh the pride, the glory, in serving your country.

He doesn’t realize what danger he is going to be facing, just like I didn’t when I was his age. Then I see two Army privates. They must feel the same way. Oh! If they ever knew how proud I am of them.

As I stand on the stage, I realize there are about 3,000 people standing in front of me. They are probably just as proud of us, the color guard veterans, as we are proud of all the young men and women in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force or any other service branch. They will be going to war just like we did 30 years ago.

As they start the salute to our fallen firefighters, policemen, and all those innocent people from this cowardly attack, I see sad faces, but proud faces in the crowd. They play “Amazing Grace” and I think I’m going to cry while holding my flag, trying to stand at attention, but I don’t cry. They then sang “America the Beautiful.” I did not cry. Then they played “The Star Spangled Banner.” Yes, I cried!

They raised a 30-by-50-foot flag lit up in all its glory. I look in the faces of the people and I see a tear in a lot of them. I’m glad to be part of the ceremony, standing on the stage in my color guard uniform. Then, I see my mother, holding a candle and she, too, has a tear or two. She waves and nods her head, she’s saying, “I’m proud of all of you service veterans standing there.”

Then I hear a voice from far away saying “God bless America!” Then the crowd is yelling, “U.S.A.,” which made me start to cry again. The color guard and all the men and women in this veterans group are from different branches of the service. I’m proud of every single one of them. We are like brothers and sisters. We are one big family.

If I could be able to re-enlist, I would, but age is against me. As I look into the young men and women’s eyes that are in uniform I’m feeling proud and thankful that I am an American. Nobody will change that as long as I live and breathe. I will pray for those people that are going to war and remember; this is America, the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Tony Packowski of Manitowoc is a life member of Vietnam Veterans Chapter 731.