It began as a marker of identification, our most beautiful flag of America. Like all who are fighting for turf, the Red, White and Blue was placed to establish boundaries, a visual symbol of territory claimed; a flag to be flown on the masts of ships at sea.
I have a distinct memory of when the Flag became important to me. I sat reading the assignment given to us in our small elementary class, The Defense of Fort McHenry. I connected with the impassioned voice of Frances Scott Key as he looked through a smoky portal from aboard ship at the bombardment on Fort McHenry in 1814. As morning neared and his fears grew, so did mine. His excitement was my excitement, his pride and relief mine as I read:
And the rockets red glare,
The bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night,
That our flag was still there!
By the time the words to The Star Spangled Banner were written as a poem on that infamous battle torn night, the United States Flag was thirty-five years old and had already gone through two changes by Presidential Executive order.
This song was to become our nation’s most treasured representation of our unity toward an idea bigger than each one of us. An idea of people standing together to protect each others’ right to be free, united under the glorious symbol that is our Flag.
The Civil War in 1860 began the practice of using our Flag as motivation and inspiration toward unity, as it was used to represent the cause of the North and the fight toward Nationalism. This is what began the transition from using the Flag as a territory marker to the symbol that is recognizable today world wide as a beacon for freedom and liberty.
It began as thirteen red and white alternate stripes to represent the thirteen original colonies. The same number of white stars were the symbol of states on a blue background that was to note a new Constellation. A succession of executive orders allowed for the ultimate current design as it is today. The original Colonies are still represented in the thirteen red and white stripes with now, fifty white stars set among a background of blue.
We have seen the elimination in most schools of what used to be a required salute toward the flag as our symbol, hand to heart reciting the pledge of allegiance to the United States of America.
There have been debates and court cases determined to legislate where the flag may fly. In America, we may find ourselves on different sides of an issue, including our Flag.
Yet, when we have tragedy as we saw on September 11, 2001, our Star Spangled Banner yet waves, in storefronts, front porches and public buildings for all to see. For united we stand, divided we fall, all under the shade of Old Glory, the Red White and Blue.