Thomas E. Terry mulled about the American flag as he sipped a drink at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4848.
The Marine Corps corporal spent 1952 and 1953 fighting in the Korean Conflict, so his thoughts are different from someone waking up and realizing today is Flag Day.
"I fought for my country. I'm a good American. My flag's up every day," said the Benton, Tenn., resident.
Mr. Terry said the Stars and Stripes never seem like "just a flag" to him, not after risking his life and seeing his seven brothers -- Bobby, Sonny, George, Jim, Jack, Thomas and Donnie -- leave his hometown of Troy, N.Y., to fight for America's business.
"We fought because that flag lets anyone into this country that are glad to be here," he said. "If people don't like it here, they should leave."
He spoke while a dozen other veterans watched the Atlanta Braves beat the Minnesota Twins on Sunday afternoon. Some said they voted for President Barack Obama, some held the hard line on illegal immigration, but they all agreed on the flag.
"Other countries fly flags, and their people are oppressed," said Bob Blair, a U.S. Navy petty officer second class who also served in Korea. "That doesn't fly here. Ours represents the land of the free."
Mr. Blair said those basic ideas are overlooked in American schools. He lamented the loss of prayer, a "diminished" focus on the Pledge of Allegiance and educators unable to enliven the past.
"Young people must learn the past, why we went to these wars," Mr. Blair said. "Those that fail to remember will have to relive it."
* The American flag was adopted by resolution of the Second Continental Congress on this date in 1777.
* Pennsylvania is the only state that recognizes Flag Day as a public holiday.
* President Harry S. Truman proclaimed June 14 Flag Day in 1949.
Source: Newspaper archives
Several veterans said they visit Chattanooga National Cemetery on Flag Day, recommending young people go, too. Others will hand out Flag Day literature, which chronicles the holiday back to the 19th century.
Mr. Blair said several local veterans groups also coordinate Eagle Scouts to properly dispose of flags.
"Bring them here. We take care of it the right way," Mr. Blair said. "It's the guiding light. Our beacon."
Some people weren't aware of Flag Day, but one said he understood why the Star-Spangled Banner has a day of special recognition.
"We see the flag every day in so many places whether it's on our cars, or T-shirts, or flying from our house," said Michael Moore, a Hixson resident. "We often forget to stop and recognize ithat the American flag is the heartbeat of our country."