February 20, 2018

In an ongoing climate of what seems to be never-ending civil unrest amongst countrymen and women, politically driven agendas that provide unjust and divisive negativity, or all out ignorance (ingesting laundry detergent for entertainment), I always give a valiant effort to seek out the individuals that still make this country numero uno. In Alabama, that’s not a very hard task to complete. Sure, the South has its harsh critics. We seem to the butt of most jokes these days, but some of the best and most genuine folks in the country live here in Alabama the Beautiful. As I write this first blog entry, I am located in what’s practically the center of the state about 25 minutes south of Birmingham. I’ve traveled to each corner of the state, and I have spent each of my 29 years living here. I grew up in a small rural town near Dothan, Alabama before moving to Dothan for the last few years. Recently, I’ve moved to Shelby County, and I can tell you that nothing has changed about my interactions with others. The folks here, for the most part, are still incredibly hospitable and genuinely great hardworking Americans. It’s easy to fall into the wicked trap of what’s right or what’s wrong, what side of the fence you should be on, or which politician is the least worrisome for each of our best interest. Sometimes, you have to slow things down and check your surroundings to find the real identity of America before you believe everything today’s media will tell you.

I’m new to the area. As a photographer, I’m naturally drawn to storytelling. My idea for creating this blog is to simply meet new faces, explore intriguing places, and showcase the positive qualities of my home state through both my words and my photography. Also, I’m really annoyed by all the bashing we get as a state. We’re good people, dad-gummit! Within my first couple of months living in Shelby County, I quickly found my first topic for discussion at the annual Polar Plunge put on by the Pelham Police Department. I was at the event as part of a freelance opportunity. As soon as I arrived, I noticed a gentleman standing alone holding a tall flag pole with an American flag waving in the frigid wintery winds. It was around 8am, and the temperature was in the twenties; not exactly the ideal weather for jumping in a body of water for Alabamanians. Even with the elements at-hand, it was sight I was proud to see. As with most polar plunges, the event was for a great cause. In this case, the event was raising funds for the local chapter(s) of the Special Olympics. I realized as I arrived at the event, I was obviously punctual; about 2 hours to be exact. The event started arranging at around 8am, but the actual self-infliction of plunging into the depths of arctic turmoil did not actually begin until around 10am.

When I first arrived, a lot of people where standing around a homemade pallet bonfire. The clarity of the space around the flames was very blurry, so I could tell it was a great fire. The initial image still remains in my head:  folks were gathered around the fire to keep warm, vendors were setting up tables, and off to the left, through the blurry force field, stood a man with his towering flag pole and American flag where he would stand for the next few hours. I later learned this gentleman’s name, and I was so intrigued, I knew I had to learn his story and tell others about it.

Roy Brook stands with his flag and mug at the 2018 Polar Plunge at Oak Mountain State Park in , Pelham, Alabama. Image © 2018 JS.Raines Photography, LLC 


Roy Brook, retired and longtime resident of Alabama, grew up in the East Lake area of Birmingham, but he now lives in the Bessemer area. He’s lived in Alabama his entire life, with the exception of a short 7-month stint in Montana. Brook has been married for 41 years to the same girl, and he has two sons and two grandsons. One son lives nearby in the Birmingham area, whilst his other son is in the military. He informed me that the idea for what he does is rooted in his passion for America and all she stands for  ̶  ̶  FREEDOM and OPPORTUNITY. With one of his sons currently serving in the military, his passion for his country has grown even more. He attends various events where he believes the flag will be welcomed ranging from political events, grand openings, first responder funerals, and other local events. He also added that he can be spotted on random street corners from time-to-time. Brook tries to make as many events as he can, but with a limited income, he tries to be as conservative as possible. Although he is not a member, Brook also attends some events with the Patriot Guard Riders (PGR).

Brook has attended hundreds of events. His current flag has flown for over two years and has started to fray, so he will soon be replacing it. His presence at events is usually received in a positive fashion with handshakes and statements such as, “God bless you” and “thank you.” He’s even been given medallions, pin, and other symbols that represent that particular event. Brook stated that of all the events he’s attended, he’s only been asked to leave once. The event took place at the BJCC in Birmingham, where he was handing out small American flags to event attendees. The Birmingham Police asked Brook to leave, because he was not a part of the event; he respectfully left. When Brook isn’t attending events, he enjoys cutting firewood and doing tree work for supplemental income, as well as building homemade furniture and accent pieces.

I asked Brook what he thought about the current climate of divisiveness in our country, and he stated that he believes, “People have been deceived with lies about this country and unfortunately some have believed it. The division, political and otherwise, can only be pulled together through faith in God; the only true and living God. Hate mongers have to be silenced, politically. Free speech doesn’t include causing riots and unrest. You know: LOVE IT or LEAVE IT. God Bless America.” For Brook, he’s not a big fan of others kneeling during the anthem, either, stating that trying something disrespectful like that in another country would have much different outcomes than they do here in America.

That’s the beauty of America, though. Everyone has the same freedoms, whether we agree with each other on all ideological stances or not. At the end of the day, we’re still the best country on the planet. Our days are commonly bombarded with negative news that causes chaos and/or disdain for one another, and it usually sparks a spiral of unnecessarily ugly drama. Inevitably, we won’t agree on everything, but we can still agree that good hardworking and genuine Americans still exist. They're quite common, I might add. So, lay your biases and pessimistic opinions aside sometime and get out there to interact with others. You just might change someone’s mind, or have yours changed. To interact and meet Roy Brook for yourself, you can find him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.  Thanks for reading! There will be more stories coming soon! Be sure to follow, like, and add me on social media, as well.


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