After all, Mr. Flagg, was all about “Promises Kept”.
Perhaps, you will think this an odd way to introduce you to President Trump’s website called, “Promises Kept” but please, bear with me… I promise to connect the dots.
Mr. Flagg would often finish his sentences in our History class with a pause… and then, his straight-in-your eyes, spoken exclamation point. It was Master Sergeant, Robert Flagg, USMC, Retired’s exclamation point.
I had never heard one quite like it nor have I since…
The funny thing was that he wasn’t cajoling us or insisting that you see it his way. On the contrary, he was just putting emphasis on the point, insisting that this was the one thing you needed to really think about. It was his plain-spoken demand that you carefully consider, in your 15-year-old brain, what he had just said. Period. I am pretty sure that Clint Eastwood stole his style from Mr. Flagg.
Back to 1967…
You see, I am a Catholic Boarding Prep School graduate of the 60’s. I need to put emphasis on the “boarding” school part here, a so-called “Preppy” as I was sometimes referred to in the 80’s.
But wait, please, before you go on with what most people’s notion of a boarding school “Preppy” is, I need to tell you that my experience was nothing like what most folks have heard. Not at all.
If you think of a “dorm” as a building with a lot of two-student rooms, then no, I am not that kind of Preppy. Until my Junior Year, a “dorm” was 80 guys in one big room, sleeping on World War II Army surplus beds complete with four-inch, horse-hair mattresses and nothing more than a trunk between you and the other guy to your right and left. The word “barracks” comes to mind.
Girls? Well, forget about that, altogether. And, you can forget the jokes about Saltpeter in the milk, too. I have heard them all.
The truth is that it wasn’t until my Junior year when we had our first dance where the girls from the all-girls “day” Catholic school across town were invited. To this day, I still grin when I hear the Vanilla Fudge version of “Set Me Free” by The Supremes. I still see the drummer playing in the flashing strobe lights. The girl I met there and I are grandparents now. How cool is that?
Fights with your parents over curfews? Nope. You only went home four times a year. No time for those parental jousts. But as in the movie, “Dead Poet’s Society”, in my Junior year, the kid across the hall from our room committed suicide over Christmas vacation. Counseling on the Monday following our return to school, after a classmate’s suicide? You must be kidding. Classes start at 8 AM.
Truth be told, for me at least, “The Prep” was a bittersweet experience – sheer terror at times, blended with many extraordinary experiences, friends, and teachers. My classmates and I learned things that most people only learn in their mid-twenties or thirties… and sometimes, never.
But like many of you, there were those special teachers.
One of them was Mr. Jack Flagg… Retired Master Sergeant, Jack Flagg, USMC, my second Prep School History teacher and a former Platoon leader in the Pacific Island Campaigns of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
OK, OK, Rich, get to the point, will ya’? What’s the connection between this stroll down memory lane, Mr. Flagg and the “Promises Kept” website?
Hang on, now, indulge me…
“Are you clear on this Mr. Lepoutre?”
“Yes, Mr. Flagg, clear”. “Good, Mr. Lepoutre. That is using your head for something other than a hat rack”.
Lord above, at first, how Mr. Flagg scared the beans out of me and my classmates, But how we learned to love that man. Every class was an all-out challenge. Every class was memorable. To the last one of us of the Class of 1970, there had ever been a man like this. He bloody-darn-forever left his good mark on each and every one of us. “Period”.
And although his Irish, Paris Island, Drill Instructor face, topped with a grey shock of hair, could turn somewhere between eleven to thirteen shades of red with purple veins popping out when you gave him a truly bone-headed answer, the man was unflinchingly fair.
Never once did you wonder about Mr. Flagg’s rock-solid commitment to you or the fairness with which he led us. He was “Always Faithful” to us and to our learning, first. He said it just the way he meant it. And he expected the same in return. Simple. Dependable. Duty-bound. Trustworthy.
Can you imagine it? I am still not sure I could have.
You’ve led and lived through the horrors of the Pacific War. You fought and doubtless agonized, as 19-year-old Marines died, torn and shredded in horrific battle… and now you’re teaching a bunch of privileged, Catholic kids their place in history… smack in the middle of Vietnam War era?
As his students, we knew he could take your head off in an instant (and as I reflect on it, no one would have blamed him) but he never “lost it” in that classroom. He wouldn’t. He didn’t have to.
In my adult years, I would come to reflect on the man and thank God for him. You know that pledge, “Semper Fidelis” you have likely heard in the abbreviated form? Well, Mr. Flagg was “Semper Fi” before I ever heard it said by another Marine.
Robert Flagg, USMC Retired, was all about the pledge he would keep to us in 1967. He had led Marines in the bloody sand and coral rock of the Pacific and he was committed to lead these wet-behind-the-ears, Prep School recruits, no differently. He had pledged his fidelity to us. He had made us a promise, not so much to teach us the History by dates and places but to provoke the questions that we would have to answer in our time in history.
Oh, I am sure he was, as I am, a flawed man in ways we would never see back then. But he taught us the importance of a pledge made and honored.
And so, it is in the spirit of the Gunny Flagg’s memory that I point you to President Trump’s website “Promises Kept.”
OK, look, I get it. You wish the President was a little less “smash-mouth” and you wish that he would refrain from saying things “the way he does”. Fair enough. And now that we have that out of the way, as I say to some of my family and friends:
“Consider the results, delivered as promised. Donald Trump pledged to produce results for all Americans. Perhaps you just want to eat the meat and leave the bones?
Would you rather be lied to by a gilt-tongued President who cloaked his true intentions from the beginning?
Are you not suspicious of a mainstream media that refuses to ask the same questions of the previous Administration, Hillary Clinton and countless others, that they do of Donald Trump? Why is that?
Do you not remember how the Obama Administration weaponized the IRS to kill off Conservative grassroots Tea Party organizations?
Did you forget that Administration’s illegal bugging of journalists who the previous Administration considered a threat? Are you really surprised that the same tactics are in play today to destroy the guy who committed to not being an “insider”?
Were you not lied to about so-called “affordable” health care, the Benghazi debacle, the “Fast and Furious” gun-running?
Are you OK with a now nuclear Terrorist Iran, paid-off by the Obama Administration in a shady, dead-of-night deal?
Do you know that we are now a net energy-producing exporter of oil and natural gas, and no longer at the mercy of warring Mideastern factions and “war for oil”?
Do you really have a problem with the lowest unemployment rates for all Americans, since the time I was in that History class with Mr. Flagg? Do you realize that we now have the lowest unemployment rate for African-Americans and legal Hispanics since the time Martin Luther King was shot on that balcony in 1968? Does that not matter to you?
Likely, you in this CauseACTION audience can get over President Trump’s rougher edges. I know I can. The man is simply not going to stand down in the face of the onslaught of personal attacks that would keep him from his promise. We are not fools. We understand that this is about more than “keeping the trains running on time”. We understand that history has provided these flawed but determined men in the past.
Lincoln had his Ulysses S. Grant who offended many but brought the bloodletting of the Civil War to an end; Churchill, more often than not drunk by mid-afternoon and who could be legitimately be blamed for having sent thousands to their death at Galipoli, offended many but saved Europe. General “Georgie” Patton, one of the first victims of “political correctness” was equally smash-mouth and blunt but rolled over anything that got in his way to smash the Nazi beast and in so doing, saved hundreds of thousands of lives?
Will history judge Trump in the same way? Perhaps. Perhaps not. It remains to be seen someday.
But in the meantime, have a look at Promises Kept and judge for yourself… and then perhaps pass it on to that relative or friend I know you have in your family, as I have in mine. You may have to remind them, as Mr. Flagg taught back in 1967, that simple-minded, name-calling is just that… simple-minded.
As we all watch the new, go-nowhere, Mueller Russia sequel, most of us know that we are in a cultural war. We are in a war for the American soul and spirit built on the Constitutional guarantees we cherish. We are clearly in a war for the principle of “equal protection and prosecution under the law” for all Americans.
So, let us all keep a careful watch over our Constitutional principles. This is not the first time they will have been threatened. But it is our time. Just as it once was Master Sargent, Jack Flagg USMC, Retired’s time.
Let us all be vigilant, fair and trustworthy and demand no less from those to whom we grant the privilege to represent us.
I appreciate your strolling back into this “Preppy’s” formative days and I am equally happy to have loaned you my memories of Jack Flagg, USMC, Retired.