The heat was indeed oppressive, the air filled with wringing humidity. Most stood in the fierceness of the sun, a crisp blue summer sky flanked by a few willowy clouds. I had come to give honor, to pay my deep respects and to pay attention. All those that were present — and there were hundreds — were speaking to each other in quiet reverence, each with a solemn sense of devotion to duty and honor. Yet, I was also present to pay attention to the voices of the shrill condemnation. I waited patiently for what I feared would be a castigating vilification of a young soldier infused with honor, faith and family — a vile screech soon to be spewed into the air around us. And I waited. And I continued to wait. An hour passed and the overwhelming quietness and strength of the respect and appreciation for a young soldier was most evident.

The heat was indeed oppressive, the air filled with wringing humidity. Most stood in the fierceness of the sun, a crisp blue summer sky flanked by a few willowy clouds. I had come to give honor, to pay my deep respects and to pay attention. All those that were present — and there were hundreds — were speaking to each other in quiet reverence, each with a solemn sense of devotion to duty and honor. Yet, I was also present to pay attention to the voices of the shrill condemnation. I waited patiently for what I feared would be a castigating vilification of a young soldier infused with honor, faith and family — a vile screech soon to be spewed into the air around us. And I waited. And I continued to wait. An hour passed and the overwhelming quietness and strength of the respect and appreciation for a young soldier was most evident.

The people lined the sidewalks and filled the street with flags and fondness, fearlessness and friendship. All at attention, salutes held firm, fast, unshakable for over 20 minutes. The bell of the church pealed both in solemnness and also familiarity. “I will never leave you.” Men, women, young, old, citizens, veterans, soldiers in one accord, exhibited for all to see the strength, power and love that is so deeply a part of this great nation. All were on vast display on a hot asphalt street in our community. Amidst that sweltering heat they stood — and the lines wavered not!

I grasped the flag I was given and held it firmly, lovingly, and I began to think upon all that it represents. “For which it stands” — this nation of ours! Backed by all the people who hold the flag at high honor; defended so completely by those whose sacrifice is so deep and so often final. The oaths I had taken so long ago easily surfaced in my mind — to defend the people, the freedoms, the Constitution and the nation, even the views of those we find most reprehensible or expressed with vile hatred and contempt. Still, the lines never wavered!

Then a question arose: “What if this group failed to appear?” Oh, what deep shame and ignomity would attach itself to their coattails if they ran off (or never even ventured our way). If we are willing to fight and even to die to protect these cherished freedoms, for their right to speak freely — of what are they afraid? What terrifies them so that they don’t even make it to the ballpark — much less assume the field? Many may abhor your views, others may agree with them; but I am confident that all recoil in disgust at the manner of your message-giving.

The immensity of sounds of the voices that swayed forth in respect and appreciation of the young soldier also clasped tightly the flags, stood at strict attention, held salute and shed tears, were interspersed with the crisp commands of the Guards of Honor. The deep strength conveyed with amazing love evidenced the folding and rendering of the flag. Our flag (and presumably, theirs) evoked so many tears. Still, the lines wavered not!

I waited a while longer, the echoes of all this swirling in my mind and heart, straining for just an inkling of incliment sound, a modicum of voice (gong, cymbal, out-of-tune oboe), but there was nothing. And it too faded into obscurity. The enormity of their silence was just that — no ado about nothing! Their clique’s rampant failure to appear, failure to even approach a place and a people of such dignity and honor reminded me not of a church empowered and sustained by the grace of God, but of a wind-tossed sea — frothing, foaming, without faith or direction.

As I departed, there it was — a groveling, whimpering silence — last heard slithering under a rotting log, slinking back into the dark confines of a cave. All in all, a most satisfying sound. A sound I would rather like to hear again.

And still, the lines wavered not, they wavered not at all!

• • •

T.E. Brown is a local attorney and former Jefferson County Circuit Judge assigned to juvenile court from 1991 to 2008. He served in the U.S Army Reserve from 1974 to 1988.