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FLAG MAN (BOB CORNELL) SHIVERS
FLAG DAY IS ALWAYS JUNE 14. This year I’m posting a newspaper column Sonny Schwartz wrote about my father, Robert William Cornell.
Yesterday was Bob Cornell’s day.
Nah, not his birthday. That was May 28.
Nor the anniversary of his retirement from the Navy after 30 years of active and inactive service. That was June 4, 1971.
Yesterday was Flag Day.
And on Flag Day, the former U. S. Navy chief aviation photographer stands tall.
Cornell, you see, is a flag fanatic, though he winces at the categorization.
And it’s the American Flag, good Old Glory, that turns Cornell on and sends star-spangled bannered shivers down his spine.
Now don’t think for a moment that Bob Cornell is your ordinary inveterate flag buff.
He’s much more than that. Much more.
He eats, drinks, talks, walks, breathes and sleeps the American Flag.
Cornell’s a veritable human book of knowledge when it comes to the U. S. Flag, a subject he’s studied with intensity since he was knee high to Betsy Ross.
He owns countless volumes of books and scores of newspaper and magazine articles on Old Glory, and constantly adds more to the extensive collection already filling his Pleasantville (N. J.) apartment.
“I suppose I can tell you nearly everything there is to know about the history and lore of the American Flag,” Cornell was saying on Flag Day.
“Of course, it’s common knowledge that today (Tuesday) is the Bicentennial of our flag—200 years since it came into being.
As probably most everyone realizes, the flag was born right in Philadelphia.”
Cornell insists that while he cherishes his flag, he isn’t really “fanatical” about it.
“Listen, nearly 100 per cent of the veterans and retired military personnel honor, love and respect the flag, but we’re not what you’d actually describe as fanatics,” he maintains.
“But when we see it in parades, military funerals or displayed in public without shame or discrimination, defamy or discredit, we truly love it.
“However, I’m not saying we go overboard…”
If Bob Cornell doesn’t go overboard at the sight, smell, sound and taste of the American Flag, then sailors don’t have a girl in every port.
“More people are flying the flag in more places more often today than they have done for many years,” Cornell said enthusiastically.
“I was talking to a flag dealer and he told me people are buying flags like crazy. He felt it was a good thing, because patriotism is so essential—and these are my sentiments exactly.”
And speaking of sentiments, Bob Cornell believes there’s nothing more thrilling than a glance at the Stars and Stripes waving gently against an azure-blue sky.
“So if your eyes moisten and your throat tingles at the sight of the American Flag—as mine always do—apologies are not in order,” Cornell says.
“These reactions merely prove that you’re a full-fledged, red-blooded American, proud or our heritage and the banner that is the symbol of our democracy and ourselves.
“When you see a flag being flown properly lighted at night, or attached to
a building, you know for certain that you’re in the ‘land of the free.’”
*Originally published in the Press of Atlantic City, unknown date—obviously, after 1971 (anyone knowing the specific date, please note it in the comments box below). Reprinted with permission.