“I think they were all heroes,” filmmaker Clint Eastwood told CBS in 2006 while promoting his movie, “Flags of Our Fathers,” a look at the Battle of Iwo Jima and the story behind one of the most famous pictures of the American flag — the raising of it after the battle had been fought and won.
“It was the biggest battle in Marine Corps history, the most loss of life of any Marine campaign,” the director said. “Flags of Our Fathers” starred Ryan Phillippe, Adam Beach, and Jesse Bradford as three men pulled from the war and tasked with being the faces behind the photo and selling World War II to the American people.
What followed was a meditation on war and the relationships between soldier and country, and soldier and civilian, that only a veteran and ace filmmaker like Eastwood could piece together. It's the perfect movie to watch for Flag Day, which honors June 14, 1777 — the day the Second Continental Congress authorized a flag to represent the new United States of America.
No matter how patriotic one is, the American flag represents a great deal. Whether it represents a complicated history, the ideals of the Constitution, the men and women who have lost their lives defending it — that doesn't matter. The flag of the United States represents something special to nearly everyone.
This is entirely the subject of "Flags of Our Fathers." Based on the massive bestseller of a book, it is an examination of what the flag of our country means to politicians, to citizens, to grieving parents and spouses, to veterans, to heroes and to cowards.
Beyond that, the film dives into the cultural gap between civilian and soldier, something that is unfortunately a greater problem today. With so few Americans donning the uniform these days, it is difficult for the sacrifices behind the flag to be fully understood by a large portion of the country.
This was one of Eastwood's goals with the movie. He told CBS he wanted to show audiences "that the price is pretty heavy and that the price is something the military people are always ready to stand by and pay ... and [the] American people should be appreciative of that."
The famous picture that acts as the poster and centerpiece of the movie was the inspiration for the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, which shows 32-foot tall soldiers raising the American flag after one of the most difficult battles in history.
"Flags" author James Bradley's father (whose story partly inspired the book) had met with the sculptor of the amazing piece, and the depictions of the soldiers are partly based on him.
On Flag Day, it's important to look at the symbol that represents the United States of America and remember what that symbol represents to so many different people. Behind it is history, blood, sacrifice, sweat, tears, and everything in between. It's important to not value only what the flag represents to us, but what it represents to others as well.
"Flags of Our Fathers" puts the American flag at the center of its story and then asks what it means to the people born beneath it. It's a question that should always be raised and pondered on days like Flag Day.
Last Modified: June 14, 2017, 10:48 am