Old Glory

| June 14, 2019

June 14th is Flag Day. When Americans are supposed to have a solemn reverence for the colors of our nation. In a day where some people resort to burning or stomping on Old Glory for the sake of protest, I think the story of the flag and what it means is more important than ever.

 

In 1777, just a year after the United States formally declared their independence from Great Britain, the Flag Resolution would give America an official flag with thirteen stripes and thirteen stars, which was later raised to fifteen stars as Vermont and Kentucky entered the union.

 

It was this flag, with 15 stars, that inspired the writing of the national anthem of the United States, “The Star Spangled Banner”. When the British bombarded Fort McHenry in Baltimore in the year 1814, Francis Scott Key approached the British ships with a flag of truce hoping to negotiate for the release of a prisoner. Key was detained on the ship for the entire night-time battle. The British commander had sent an ultimatum to the fort, demanding that they lay down their flag or the British would bombard them.

 

The Americans refused to lay down their flag.

 

At any point, if the Americans lowered their flag, the British would immediately stop firing at them. The story goes that as Key was watching the bombardment of the fort throughout the night, he kept an eye on the raised flag. Knowing that if the flag went down, it would mean the British have won. Key said that even though it was a pitch-black night, the British artillery lit the sky up with red light.

 

After a few hours of relentless bombardment, the British started ordering their fleet to fire directly at the flag. Despite several reports that the flag had been hit, it could still be seen flying above the ramparts. For the next three hours, the British mercilessly targeted it.

 

And then sunrise came. And though it was shredded and bent to a strange angle, Key saw the flag was still there. Old Glory had suffered several direct hits, knocking it to the ground. But every time the flag was knocked to the ground, American soldiers, knowing it meant certain death, rushed into the area where Old Glory was and held it up. When morning came, the only thing that held up the flagpole were the bodies of dead soldiers.

 

It was witnessing this that inspired Key to write the now famous words:

 

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

 

It is more important today to focus on what unites us, not on what divides us.

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