In a world of givers and takers, retired Marine Corp veteran Ron Coats stands out as man grateful for the all the opportunities that have come his way in war and in peacetime. "I'm just happy to be able to participate and be in the position to help and contribute to the college because the college has contributed a livelihood to me for eleven years and I appreciate that very much."
Less than two months after retiring from his security position with the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Coats was back on the Midtown campus Friday.
The former Marine Devil Dog took center stage as chief organizer of the school's annual Flag Day ceremony commemorating the adoption of "Old Glory" created by a resolution of the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777.
Coats says, "It's our symbol of liberty and our symbol of the Bill of Rights, that the men in the 1700's fought for and died for. We need to be willing to do the same."
The optometry school's celebration featured students participating in the changing of the colors, pledge of allegiance, a rifle team volley, this year's edition of bagpipes and instruction in flag etiquette.
This is the only Flag Day commemoration in the city. It's not recognized as a federal, state or local holiday. It had not been at the school until a couple of years ago when Coats got a curious call to action from the president of the college. Like a good solider he put his heart and soul into the job. "It's a shame that they've forgotten what our flag means to this country and how the patriotism that goes with it...and being a patriot to remember it. I really...it hurts my heart to see it." "I bow to no one. I am recognized all over the world. I am worshipped. I am saluted. I am respected."
While Flag Day doesn't get its true due among the civilian crowd, Army reservist and emcee of the event, Dean Swick, knows the effect the red, white and blue has on the families of those who fought under its colors in the name of freedom.
Swick says, "I get an opportunity to go to military bases every year. It's amazing that the end of the...when the colors are retired that traffic stops, people get out of their cars, kids salute. Families stop what they're doing and pay tribute to the flag."
"It's very meaningful. It's something that the city needs to look to real close. We're proud and happy to do it," says Coats
And at an optometry school in Memphis, their pride in "Old Glory" is open for the world to see every Flag Day.