Part of the Mare Herd at the 4DH Ranch in Oklahoma. For More Works by Debra Coppinger Hill Click Image.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Everyone has a claim to fame. Perhaps you have met someone famous or are a celebrity in your own right. It could be that you invented something, saved someone from a bad situation or donated a substantial sum to a charity or school. My claim to fame came in first grade, Rodman Elementary School, Poteau, Oklahoma, 1963.

Our class was small, less than a dozen children our desks in a semi-circle. Our teacher, Mrs. Miller assigned every student a job that they carried out each week. Some of the jobs included cleaner of the erasers, person in charge of passing out milk at lunch, holding open the door coming and going from recess and note carrier to the office. This is just to name a few, there were others and we all did them with pride; after all, each job came with a title and a title made us special. Each week the jobs rotated and we took over a new responsibility. Each week I waited for my turn at the most coveted job of all; Flag Bearer.

I wanted that job and I wanted it bad. Being in charge of the flag came with perks; your desk was moved to the front of the room next the flag stand and you sat closet to the door and got to be first in line for recess and lunch. It was a premium position for a first grader. I knew it was special, but I had no idea how special.

On Fridays Mrs. Miller would announce our jobs for the next week. This particular Friday she asked me to please move my desk to the front of the room next to the Flag of the United States. After doing so she dismissed the class and I, excited beyond words ran ahead of the neighbor kids I walked home with. When I told my mother I was going to be Flag Bearer she told me it was a great thing indeed and that I would have to wear my best clothes and make sure I stayed clean and presentable. When my father made it home I was standing by the door ready to share my news. He too let me know that I must take my job seriously and listen to my teacher because this was a special position.

Come Monday morning I didn’t walk to school. Mother and Daddy drove me and walked me to my classroom. Mother had french-braided my hair and I was wearing my Sunday dress and shoes. They, along with my younger brother, stood at the back of our classroom. We students took our seats and Mrs. Miller called roll. Then she looked towards me, and said, “Debra, will you please present our Flag?” I had practiced for this moment all weekend with my mother’s broom. I now rose and walked to the Flag, saluted it as I had seen all the other children do and raised it from its stand. I turned and faced the class and as I did so everyone rose. I raised the end of the pole to my hip and walked to the center of the room.
Mrs. Miller led the class in reciting the Lord’s Prayer. As we raised our bowed heads she said “Class. Salute. Pledge.” In unison they placed their hands over their hearts and along with Mrs. Miller and my parents, together said The Pledge of Allegiance. I watched the other children. The looks on their faces from this angle gave me a different perspective and my eyes followed theirs to the flag hanging above and before me. I glanced to the back of my room to where my Mother stood in her blue suit-dress and heels with her hand over her heart, my Father beside her in his suit jacket and tie, and holding his good hat over his heart; my young brother between them with his hand on his heart also. As Mrs. Miller led the group in singing ‘America’, I saw pride in my parent’s eyes; eyes fixed firmly on the Flag.

Not for one moment did I believe then or now that is was all for me. It was for our Flag, our Country and those things most sacred, God and family. They were looking with pride and respect at the Flag. I looked up at the colors I held high and knew then, what I know now; that nothing I would ever do again would ever be as important as this moment. When the last note was sung and everyone had lowered their hands, Mrs. Miller said, “Debra, would you please place our Flag.” I turned, marched the Flag back to the front of the room and placed it in its stand, stepped back and again saluted. Then I turned and looked towards my parents and saw them looking back at me and in their eyes I saw a different look of pride, and love. Mother smiled and nodded her head. Daddy winked at me and wiped his eyes. It was a defining moment in my life; a moment frozen in time and preserved forever in my memory.

Later, my parents would tell me that they were proud of me. They would tell my Grand-parents about how well I did. All my life all of my family would tell me they were proud of me for many things. But only one thing stands out for me. It is my one big claim to fame and every time I see the Flag, every time I stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance, I am reminded of that shining moment when I, Debra, daughter of Sham and Gayle Coppinger stood in honor as Bearer of the Flag.

I pledge allegiance to the Flag
of the United States of America
and to the Republic for which it stands:
one Nation under God, indivisible
With Liberty and Justice for all.

**RIDING DRAG with DEBRA COPPINGER HILL is featured each week at ALWAYS COWBOY where Debra is a Resident Western Poet. Join her and her Cowboy Friends for Cowboy Poetry, News & Events. http://alwayscowboy.net

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