Memorial Day sparks many memories of those we know and those we don’t who served and/ or died while defending our great nation. Hopefully our remembrance goes beyond just the one day in May that we just celebrated and extends to each and every day of our lives. For, at any given moment, untold numbers of military personnel are stationed near and far away ready, waiting and often engaging, in the act of fighting for our continued way of life and national security.
I was reminded of an act the Florida Legislature took in 2004 to not only recognize the efforts of one of their own, but to also protect the very flag that so many of us pledge our allegiance to. In 2004, the Legislature passed a bill, sponsored by state Sen. Mike Fasano, that mandated that each public school classroom, from kindergarten to the final year of graduate school, have an authentic, “made in America” flag on display in a manner appropriate to federal flag protocol.
The bill was named in honor of then-Rep. Carey Baker of Eustis, Fla., who was at the time on active deployment in Iraq. As a member of the Florida Army National Guard, First Sergeant/Rep. Baker was called up, as were so many other guard members and reservists, following the terrorist attacks of September 11th. In his absence his colleagues in the House of Representatives draped his chair on the House floor with a yellow ribbon to remind the world that he was not just “absent,” he was absent because he was on active service to his nation.
I remember standing in the gallery one Friday looking down at the House floor, which at that particular moment was empty. His chair stood out from all others because of the great, bright ribbon that draped the dark chair. That simple, stark gesture from the House leadership spoke volumes. With a young family waiting for him, and a chamber full of worried colleagues moving forward with their business, Representative Baker was doing his business as well. I stared thoughtfully at the chair, safe and secure in the Capitol, only imagining what conditions he was in at that moment. I said a prayer of thanks for his service and for all those who were by his side.
Senator Fasano chose to name the flag legislation after Representative Baker What a better way to honor someone actively defending our ability to fly a flag then to require that it be on display in every public classroom? The flag’s significance was on the verge of being lost to a generation of school children. Sen. Fasano stepped up to make sure that was not going to happen. HB 1757, the “Carey Baker Freedom Flag Act,” unanimously passed both the House and the Senate before being signed into law by Gov. Jeb Bush on May 24, 2004.
Rep. Baker came home and was welcomed as the returning hero that he was. He went on to a successful career in the both Florida Senate and the governor’s office. He continues this day to serve in the National Guard. Although history may never fully remember what he did on the battlefield, his name will forever be enshrined in Florida Law Chapter 2004-238. Sen. Fasano assured that every person who sits in a public classroom in Florida will have an American flag to look at, admire and pledge their allegiance to. Rep. Baker’s name will always be linked with the flags he fought to protect
May Memorial Day live on each and every day of our lives.
I welcome your questions about the legislative process, state government or any related matters. Please feel free to leave your questions in the comment section and I will answer them in an upcoming post. If there is a specific topic you would like me to write about please let me know as well.