On the first week of June each year, thousands of Europeans and Americans flow into Normandy, France, to honor the memory of the D-Day invasion that liberated western Europe from Nazi Germany in 1944. This year, I was among that crowd. Sixty-seven years had passed since the Allies jumped in the night behind enemy lines, crossed the turbulent channel in Higgins boats, fought their way across the beaches, and unleashed a torrent of warfare from the air, land and sea in an ultimate victory for good over evil. It took everything we had.
My father, Lynn Foster, served in a combat engineer battalion with the U.S. Army Air Forces on D-Day and helped destroy Hitler's Atlantic Wall, opening a route to victory in the European theater.
Like so many World War II veterans, Dad didn't talk much about it afterward. But in the rural coastal countryside of Normandy, I sensed his presence and saw what he fought for. More than that, I saw who he fought for - decades removed from the invasion - and how they honor D-Day and the ever-dwindling number of veterans who come back. And everywhere you look, flying high in the breezy sky, are U.S. flags. In that part of France, our flag means freedom.
Several weeks ago, our hearts went out to those who lost their lives and homes when a swarm of deadly tornadoes whipped across Alabama. Soon afterward, Joplin, Mo., was hit. Hundreds were killed. As was the case after 2005's Hurricane Katrina, Old Glory emerged from the rubble everywhere you looked. To those who have been devastated by natural disasters, our flag means hope.
To the families who have shed tears at the sight of a coffin draped in the colors of our country, knowing that inside it is a loved one whose life was given for safety and freedom for others, our flag means sacrifice.
In 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that to burn our flag, soil it or rip it to shreds is a protected act of speech. So be it. I disagree. The American Legion disagrees. Over 80 percent of the U.S. public disagrees.
Thankfully, our Constitution offers an amendment process. That is what we seek - an exception - and we will continue to pursue it until supermajorities of both the House and the Senate give back to the American people the right to protect the flag under which so many of their sons and daughters have fallen. In 2006, the measure fell one vote short in the Senate.
I ask you - as a Congress of many new faces takes up our nation's business - to urge the passage of Senate Joint Resolution 19 and House Joint Resolution 13. If anything deserves an exception, it is the flag of our nation and all that it means.