These Colors Don’t Run

The Stars and Stripes
[Condensed from a speech by Leo K. Thorsness,
recipient of The Congressional Medal of Honor.]
You’ve probably seen the bumper sticker somewhere along the road. It depicts an American Flag, accompanied by the words, “These colors don’t run.” I’m always glad to see this, because it reminds me of an incident from my confinement in North Vietnam at the Hao Lo POW Camp, or the “Hanoi Hilton,” as it became known.

Then a Major in the U.S. Air Force, I had been captured and imprisoned from 1967-1973. Our treatment had been frequently brutal. After three years, however, the beatings and torture became less frequent. During the last year, we were allowed outside most days for a couple of minutes to bathe. We showered by drawing water from a concrete tank with a homemade bucket.

One day as we all stood by the tank, stripped of our clothes, a young Naval pilot named Mike Christian found the remnants of a handkerchief in a gutter that ran under the prison wall. Mike managed to sneak the grimy rag into our cell and began fashioning it into a flag.

Over time we all loaned him a little soap, and he spent days cleaning the material. We helped by scrounging and stealing bits and pieces of anything he could use. At night, under his mosquito net, Mike worked on the flag. He made red and blue from ground-up roof tiles and tiny amounts of ink and painted the colors onto the cloth with watery rice glue. Using thread from his own blanket and a homemade bamboo needle, he sewed on the stars.

Early in the morning a few days later, when the guards were not alert, he whispered loudly from the back of our cell, “Hey gang, look here.” He proudly held up this tattered piece of cloth, waving it as if in a breeze. If you used your imagination, you could tell it was supposed to be an American flag. When he raised that smudgy fabric, we automatically stood straight and saluted, our chests puffing out, and more than a few eyes had tears.

About once a week the guards would strip us, run us outside and go through our clothing. During one of those shakedowns, they found Mike’s flag. We all knew what would happen. That night they came for him. Night interrogations were always the worst. They opened the cell door and pulled Mike out. We could hear the beginning of the torture before they even had him in the torture cell. They beat him most of the night.

About daylight they pushed what was left of him back through the cell door. He was badly broken; even his voice was gone. Within two weeks, despite the danger, Mike scrounged another piece of cloth and began another flag. The Stars and Stripes, our national symbol, was worth the sacrifice to him.

Now whenever I see the flag, I think of Mike and the morning he first waved that tattered emblem of a nation. It was then, thousands of miles from home in a lonely prison cell, that he showed us what it is to be truly free.

These Colors Don’t Run
By Ric Branch
Back there in ’76 Mama England tried to correct her prodigal son
But we stood our ground and said our peace and our freedom finally won.
As Proudly we raised the Stars and Stripes to the light of the morning sun,
And the world first learned the fact, “These Colors Don’t Run”.

With extended hand, we signed the pact,
As we laid aside the gun.
Secure in the knowledge that we had stated the fact
That, These Colors Don’t Run.

When Freedom for all became a family issue back in eighteen sixty-one.
With Brother against Brother and even Fathers against their Sons
Family blood was spilled to assure freedom was, indeed for everyone.
Proving that even in our family These Colors Don’t Run

Reunited under Old Glory we westward marched along,
Careful to keep our doors open to all, who for freedom longed
And from everywhere they came looking, for their place in the sun
And behind that flag the statement grew that These Colors Don’t Run.

Reds, browns, yellows, blacks, and whites
Americans only We stand united in our fights
And we are always there till the job is done
Because WE know that, These Colors Don’t Run

Over it’s own homeland Old Glory still flies
But when others are threatened, to their aid we’ll rise.
As the Kaiser learned in World War One
When our help is needed These Colors Don’t Run.

If you hurt us, we’re sure to hurt you
Was the lesson we taught in World War Two
The Iron Cross and the Rising Sun
had to learn it the hard way, These Colors Don’t Run.

And with our technology in extended hands
We helped them rebuild their own homelands
When peace prevailed and the fighting was all done
Because even in peace These Colors Don’t Run

Now cowardly and without cause you have hurt us again
And though we are reeling from all of the pain
We’re coming for you and you’ve no place to run
To teach you again that These Colors Don’t Run.

You may hide in your caves and strike in the night
You may pray on the innocent and cause terror and fright,
But be sure that you know that your time has come
Because as always before These Colors Don’t Run.

The Stars and Stripes will stay unfurled
As a blanket of Freedom for all the world
It’s enemies may bloody, curse, burn and shun,
But they WILL always remember that


~ by devildog6771 on November 22, 2005.

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