Remembering those who fought and died

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Four shadow boxes honoring men who served in military conflicts hang on walls in our home.

One honors my father, William Douglas Thompson, who served in World War II in the Navy and saw a lot of action in the Pacific.  He came home from the war.  His shadow box contains an American flag and his medals.

The second contains an American flag, medals and certificates to remember the service in World War I by Walter McPeak, my paternal grandfather.  He survived the war and returned home.

A third American flag rests in the shadow box honoring Union Army Captain William Thompson for his service in the Civil War.  He survived battles at Gettyburg, the Wilderness and elsewhere to make General after the war and retire with honors before dying in 1877.  He was my father’s great grandfather.

The fourth shadow box holds a Confederate battle flag and honors enlisted soldier Daniel Leroy Thompson, who died on May 4, 1863 in the Battle of Chancellorsville.  Among the three relatives of military action honored by shadow boxes on our walls, Daniel was the only one who died in battle.

Yes, a Confederate flag exists in our home.  It honors a man who fought and died, ironically, against his and my country but we honor him for serving for what he  believed to be right.

I write about this today because an angry man who did not like something I wrote about the current debate over the Confederate flag assumed that (1) I had no knowledge of the service of those who fought on the losing side of the Civil War and (2) did not understand his view of the history of the Confederate Stars and Bars.

I am a product of the South, born from an Irish-American woman with long family ties to Meadows of Dan, Virginia, and a Scottish-Seminole father from Florida.  I do not, however, consider myself a “Southerner.”  I’m an American and the only country I love and support is the United States of America.

Sadly, I feel those who want to remember the South who fought against its own country seek to fabricate an illuision of a “heritage” that whitewashes decades of slavery, abuse and dishonor of those who were wrongly considered unworthy and “beneath” them.

My great-great grandfather William Thompson left the south and lived in Massachusetts when he joined the American army well before the start of the Civil War.  A study of our genealogy shows a number of relatives from Virginia joined the Union Army.  Some, like Daniel Leroy Thompson, stayed and fought for the South.  His family, ancestors and cousins, lost their land after the war,

My grandfather who fought for America in World War I was a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  He was also an avowed racist who preached hate of African Americans and even praised those who killed blacks.  He and his wife, Zella McPeak, were also founding members of Slate Mountain Presbyterian Church, one of Robert Childress’ stone chapels.

As I can remember, my grandmothers never shared her husband’s racism.  They also never had a Confederate flag in their house.  An American flag flew in the front yard.

It is sad that the current debate over use of the Confederate flag has festered into another issue of division in a country where anger rules more and more often.

Yes, a Confederate flag exists in our home.  It is there to remember a long-lost ancestor.  We don’t agree with his reasons to fight and die but we remember him as a member of our family.

A Confederate flag does not fly at our home.  It never had and never will.  We are Americans and we honor and serve only one flag.  No decal of the Confederate flag appears on our vehicles and no patches of the flag is found on my motorcycle vest,

Others, however, feel differently about use and display of the Stars and Bars.  In a nation of freedoms, their rights should, and must, be respected.  I have good friends who display the rebel flag on their motorcycle vests or fly on in their front yard.  That is their right and their use of the flag is not a barometer used to judge or consider their friendship.

Most of us who disagree over the issue can, and do, discuss the issue rationally and without rancor or hate.  Some cannot.  I’m sorry when that happens but division, not unity, is the operational position of some.

I think our government has a right to determine if it feels that a flag that represents a movement that was an enemy of the United States of America cannot fly on federal land.  I do not, however, support those who feel the statue remembering those who died fighting for the South should be removed from the lawn of the Floyd County Courthouse.  I do not support removal of statues of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis in Richmond or elsewhere.

These men are part of our history and our educators should dedicate themselves to teaching what really happened in that war and why.

That is how I try to remember the young Confederate soldier from my family who died in that awful war in 1863.

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