Military Matters: Flag Day

FORT MITCHELL, AL (WTVM) - What would make a man want to build a replica of a historic battle in American history? Joseph Thomas, Sr., said location was his first consideration.  "I was born and raised in Fort Howard", the Maryland native told us, "which is in view of Fort McHenry, and that's what inspired me."

Fort McHenry as you know is where Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the Star Spangled Banner, and with Flag Day Thursday, we thought you'd like to see Joseph Thomas's creation.

He did most of the work himself, but Thomas did get some help from his son Joseph Jr., in Columbus. "He said he needed the sound effects of artillery", according to the younger man, "you know the British bombarding Fort McHenry, and he needed to have the Star Spangled Banner sung by Kate Smith."

So, the replica was completed with the sounds of bombs bursting in air and the fat lady singing the National Anthem.

Joseph Sr. is a veteran of World War II, and like many young men of that era, had to tell a little white lie to get in. "When the war broke out I was 15-years old. I wasn't old enough to go into the Army", Thomas said. "All my brothers and cousins were going into the Army, and I wanted to serve too."

Thomas changed his birth certificate and joined the Merchant Marines. But before the war ended, he had made his way into the Army.

His son enlisted right out of high school in 1966. Both men carry the scars of war, and both are disabled. They are also proud of the American flag.

"Let me tell you something", the elder Thomas told us, "my people are all French, come from France. I was one of the first born here in the United States. And believe me, I cherish that flag."

Joseph Jr. gets emotional when he discusses the flag. "I see a nation, a living thing. Our flag is a living thing."  He can even give you a breakdown of the red, white and blue. "The different colors on it represent the blood that was shed. The white for courage, the blue for the battlefield, and each star is representing the states and all the lives that were given to keep her flying."

His father echoes that feeling with a hearty, "God bless America, and everything it stands for."