Home News Flag Day: America’s symbol began with poetry describing nighttime battle

Flag Day: America’s symbol began with poetry describing nighttime battle

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A small American flag is reflected in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, July 22, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar)
A small American flag is reflected in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, July 22, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar)

While American patriots were defending Baltimore Harbor during a nighttime attack by the British Navy in 1814, a writer of poetry was watching.

Francis Scott Key so aptly penned the vision of a flag still standing at dawn’s early light, that it showed a new nation how crucial a symbol can be.

Now, on Flag Day, June 14, 2016, there is a kind of unwritten celebration of the adoption in 1777 of the Stars and Stripes. And whether it’s a citizen at home or a soldier serving half a world away, there is comfort and a spiritual dimension that is stirred by glimpsing the flag outlined against the sky.

Amos Hastings, quartermaster of the VFW, was a soldier.

“Whatever country we were in, just looking up at the Stars and Stripes and knowing our country was behind us, and that it meant to believe in God and country, salvation, just freedom of expression … sometimes it’s hard to describe,” he said.

“Unless you are there in a foreign country … sometimes when you get really down and feel despair, you just look up at that flag, and it’s the hope of the future — hope that you’re going to get home, you’re going to be safe — you’re going to be sharing the same experience with your brothers in arms.

“It’s just that symbol, that knowing that God is there looking out after you.”

According to Robert Bland, a sergeant in the Korean War, the flag should always be shown respect.

Although currently recovering from an illness, Bland speaks during the school year to students throughout the area.

Bland has told A-J Media, “One should always feel a sense of pride and respect for the flag of our great nation, and also a knowing that God has blessed America.”

LaVerne Lusk, a member of the Nancy Anderson Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, links the flag with the words “land of the free and home of the brave” from the National Anthem.

“Our local Lubbock War Memorial is one such home of the brave. The national cemeteries broaden that home of the brave to include fallen Americans in foreign lands,” she said.

“The true home of the brave is found within the hearts of the American people when the flag is presented with respect and honor.”

Flag Day has been celebrated informally by schools and civic organizations since 1889, but was formally recognized in 1916 under the reign of Woodrow Wilson as president.

President Harry S. Truman, four years after World War II ended in 1945, signed an act that set aside June 14 as the annual day to celebrate the flag.

According to tradition, Betsy Ross made the first American flag in 1776, a year before it was formally adopted by the Second Continental Congress.

Then Mary Pickersgill, a producer of flags and emblems for ships, made a 30×40-foot garrison flag for Fort McHenry at Baltimore that could be seen by the British Navy eight miles away. It was the flag still standing that was seen by Key while he was aboard a British ship in his attempt to negotiate an end to the war.

After witnessing the flag that was still standing through the night, Key wrote the opening paragraph for his “Star Spangled Banner” poem that today is sung by memory at most occasions as the National Anthem. But there was a concluding paragraph that is not as well known, that captured a specific character of the new nation and its flag:

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.

Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: In God is our trust.

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

ray.westbrook@lubbockonline.com

–766-8711

Follow Ray on Twitter

@RayWestbrook1

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(c)2016 the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (Lubbock, Texas) at www.lubbockonline.com

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