CONTINENTAL — Some people just see a piece of fabric with some stripes and stars on it dangling.
As Cole Dotson drove past the Continental schools building the morning of May 22, he saw everything he cares about just lying on the ground like someone dropped a sweatshirt. The rope somehow unwound, dropping the American flag to the grass.
The 18-year-old did the only thing he knew: He honored his country’s flag, respecting the U.S. Flag Code, and lifting it off the ground.
“It was instinct. I knew the flag wasn’t supposed to touch the ground,” said the Continental senior, who pulled over his car while driving through town. “I pulled over, ran up there and picked it up off the ground.”
Then he waited. First he called a friend, a fellow Marine Corps recruit with a similar sense of duty. His next call was to his grandmother, an employee at Continental schools.
“When he called for her help, a thousand things went through her mind about what he needed help with and why he would call her,” Cole’s mother, Rhonda Pester, wrote on Facebook. “My mom works at Continental school, so he knew she could call for assistance.”
He stood there nearly 20 minutes awaiting help. His grandmother snapped a picture in the meantime. His mother posted it to Facebook, where it has more than 46,000 shares.
To really understand Dotson’s actions, you have to understand his history. Both of his grandfathers served in the military. His father, Chad Dotson, is a Marine. He has uncles who were Marines or served in the Army.
“It’s a real personal thing,” said Dotson, who is in the delayed entry program for the Marines, following in his father’s footsteps. “They’re doing what most people won’t do for this country.”
For however many people saw that piece of stripe fabric dangling from a pole and touching the ground, Dotson saw a solvable emergency.
“It was well worth it. If a guy is going to lay his life down to defend that flag, the least I can do is the honorable thing,” Dotson said.
Respect for the flag was part of his upbringing, something he learned in Boy Scouts on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout and now on his way to becoming a Marine. Some of his first lessons in first or second grade focused on properly folding and displaying the flag.
“You see on the news all the time about people disrespecting the flag,” Dotson said. “Where I come from, in this small town, people are pretty respectful of it. … I’m pretty proud to be where I’m from.”
And he’s proud of the United States, which he eagerly awaits his chance to serve. It’s something to consider this Memorial Day weekend, as we recall all those who lost their lives protecting our freedoms.
“I’m more than grateful for everyone who risked their lives for the country and paid the ultimate price,” Dotson said. “I have all due respect to them.”