I apologize for the longer than usual blog. However, as promised, here is an important part of Mary Fong's retirement ceremony held at APhA last week. This flag ceremony involved her mates passing the flag slowly and ceremoniously from one to the next and finally to Mary. I get choked up just writing about it. The following needs no further introduction or explanation.
I am the flag of the United States of America. My name is “OLD GLORY.”
I fly atop the world’s tallest buildings. I stand watch in America’s Halls of Justice. I fly majestically over great institutions of learning.
I stand guard with the greatest military power in the world. LOOK UP! AND SEE ME!
I was there in June of 1986 when you, MARY FONG, started your career with the United States Public Health Service, and were commissioned as a Lieutenant Jr. Grade. I was there when you reported as a staff pharmacist to your first assignment to Chinle, AZ, in the heart of Navajo country. In 1987 I watched proudly as you were promoted to Lieutenant, and subsequently transferred from “Quiet to Riot” by accepted an assignment in New York serving as a pharmacist for Immigration Health Services, in the heart of Greenwich Village.
I stand for Peace, Honor, Truth, and Justice.
I stand for Freedom.
I am confident. I am arrogant. I am proud.
When I am flown with fellow banners, my head is a little higher, my colors a little truer.
I was there in April of 1989 when you met Victor, of whom you really didn’t think much about. I was flying high above when you were diagnosed with breast cancer in 1990. I swayed gently in the breeze as you underwent your first six months of chemotherapy treatment. I gazed down upon you as you took your first assignment with the Coast Guard as a Pharmacy officer at Coast Guard Headquarters.
I BOW TO NO ONE.
I am recognized all over the world.
I am worshipped. I am saluted. I am respected. I am revered.
I AM LOVED AND I AM FEARED.
I was there when you advanced to the rank of LT Commander. I vigilantly watched over you when you transferred as a Geo-Bachelor to Coast Guard Air Station Miami, un-accompanied. It was during this time you exhibited your stalwart character, performing your duties as a pharmacist to the men and women of the Coast Guard, as well as your dedication as a daughter, as you assisted your mother during your father’s medical emergency.
I have fought every battle of every war, for more than 200 years. When America fought for her freedom, I was there.
When America fought for the freedom of others in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, and Afghanistan, I was there. And I am there now in Iraq.
In 1997 you were promoted to the rank of Commander. This promotion sent you back to CG Headquarters. I looked on in 2000 as you were faced with the challenge of discovering another lump in your breast, which was followed by surgery, and radiation. The next year, I blanketed you as you faced the sorrow of losing your father after his year long battle with Choloangiocarcinoma.
I led sailors. I followed them. I watched over them. They loved me.
I was on a small boat in Guadalcanal. I was dirty, battle-worn and tired, but my sailors and marines cheered me. I was proud.
I was flying in August of 2003, when you accepted the job as Chief Pharmacist, Pharmacy program Coordinator in CG-112.
I have been soiled, burned, torn, and trampled on the streets of countries that I have helped to set free. It does not hurt, for I am invincible.
I have been soiled, burned, torn, and trampled on the streets of my own country. And when it is done by those with whom I stand for in this great country, it hurts. But I shall overcome,
FOR I AM STRONG!!
I was with you in the spring and summer of 2005 when you were informed that you had Metastatic Breast Cancer. I waved with pride over you after four and a half years of night school; you completed your graduate training at the Naval War College.
I have slipped the bonds of earth and stand watch over the uncharted new frontiers of space from my vantage point on the moon.
Once again I waved jubilantly when in July of that same year you were promoted to Captain. I looked on as you celebrated your 50th birthday with colleagues. You have made a tremendous impact on the Coast Guard Pharmacy program.
I have been a silent witness to all of America’s finest hours. But my finest hour is when I am torn into strips to be used as bandages for my wounded. When I am flown at half-mast to honor my sailors, or when I lie in the trembling arms of a grieving parent at the grave of their fallen son or daughter, I am proud.
Now I fly proudly as you accept your orders to retirement.
I am proud to have served with you during your many years of service to our country. I will be with you in your retirement just as I was during your active service.
Dear God, long may I wave.
I am proud. My name is OLD GLORY.