Celebrating Flag Day
The pilot came on the PA system as we were nearing our gate. “We are stopping short of our gate. If you will, please join us for a few moments of silence before we continue. The plane at the gate next to ours is offloading the body of one of our fallen soldiers; we want to honor him and his family,” he softly said.
The plane grew silent as those on my side of the plane - and the soldier’s family on the ground - watched the flag-draped coffin being removed. Tears flowed...from those on the ground and on the plane. Some were mine.
Today is Flag Day. Have you ever wondered about the words to our Star Spangled Banner? The “rockets red glare, bombs bursting in air?” Why was someone watching so intently to “see if our flag was still there?”1
“In 1814, as flames leapt out of the Capitol Building and the White House, the night sky glowed red as the American people fled Washington. The British were attacking American seaports and the mainland relentlessly, steadily moving toward Baltimore. Emboldened by victory, British Admiral Cochrane informed James Monroe, America’s Secretary of State, that the British Navy had set their eyes on the demolition of Fort McHenry, a pentagonal bastion fort protecting the Baltimore harbor.
“A young lawyer named Francis Scott Key had been sent to negotiate the release of prisoners being held on British ships in the Baltimore Harbor. After the successful negotiation of the release, Key was informed by Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane that the negotiations would be fruitless, as the British would launch an attack on Fort McHenry at dawn. Because Key had seen the British preparing to attack, Cochrane did not allow him to return to land.
“On Tuesday, September 13, 1814, the earth-shattering sound of heavy guns broke the morning calm. British ships, as far as the eye could see, filled the harbor and mercilessly released their deadly mortars. By the following morning, the British had launched over 1,500 mortars, some as heavy as 250 pounds, into Fort McHenry.
“Through the night, Key kept a watch over the Fort. As the bombs lit up the night, Key strained to see if the American Flag was still flying. Why? Why was Key so intensely watching the flag? British officers had informed American troops that the whole battle could be avoided if they simply would lower their flag. So, as long as the flag remained raised, the British would continue to attack. For 25 hours, the British bombarded Fort McHenry. For 25 hours, American troops inside the fort made sure that the flag was still there. After 25 hours, the British realized they would not take the fort by sea, and ceased fire.
“Realizing the British were discontinuing their fire, Key, several miles out, looked over the waters. What would he tell the American prisoners now aboard his ship? Would he see the flag with her bold stripes and bright stars? Would he see the sign of surrender? Did that star-spangled banner yet wave? As the dawn turned to daylight, though its pole was askew and its stars and stripes marred, Key saw that, indeed, our American flag was still there.”2
I have made no attempt to hide my patriotism in these posts. Nor have I ever suggested that God loves America more than any other nation. He does not; He loves all people equally. That fact should not, however, lessen our love for and commitment to our nation. He loves the family across town as much as He does mine, yet that doesn’t mean I bear the same responsibility and paternal love for them as I do my household. America is my homeland and I love her. The flag represents her.
“To some Americans, the flag and our national anthem are not just meaningless symbols. Our national anthem and our flag represent the things we hold dear: our country, the freedom enjoyed by all Americans, and the troops who fought for it. Many Americans proudly stand with tears in their eyes and gratitude in their hearts when our national anthem is performed; I’m one of them. Often, veterans take part in the performing of our national anthem and the simultaneous display of our flag. Such displays are meant to inspire gratitude and patriotism! 3
“On June 14, 1877, the first Flag Day observance was held on the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the Stars and Stripes. As instructed by Congress, the U.S. flag was flown from all public buildings across the country. In the years after the first Flag Day, several states continued to observe the anniversary, and in 1949 Congress officially designated June 14 as Flag Day, a national day of observance.” 4
When living in Colorado Springs, a city with 5 military bases, we had the opportunity to see the Presenting (or Posting) of Colors many times. Usually there were 4 flags: the American flag (always on the right), the state flag, the military departmental flag, and the unit flag. The military representatives (soldiers) always marched in ceremoniously, and exited the same. The Presenting of Colors always caused everyone in the venue to pause and honor the flags being displayed.
We also learned there is a flag protocol:
“When more than one flag is displayed, the American flag is to fly at peak, above any other flag.
Do not let the flag touch the ground.
Do not fly the flag upside down unless there is an emergency.
Do not carry the flag flat, or carry things in it.
Do not store the flag where it can get dirty.
Do not use it as a cover.
Do not fasten it or tie it back. Always allow it to fall free.
Do not draw on, or otherwise mark the flag.
When flown over a street, the Union (stars) face north or east depending on the direction of the street.”5
And there are other specifications for proper flag etiquette. Why do I mention them? Because the importance of our flag - our symbol of freedom, patriotism, and independence - must be celebrated, fought for, and even properly cared for. That, my friend, is done by you and me.
“Flags originally were used mainly in warfare, and to some extent they have remained an insignia of leadership, serving for the identification of friend or foe and as rallying points. They are now also extensively employed for signaling, for decoration, and for display. Because the usefulness of a flag for purposes of identification depends on its blowing out freely in the wind, the material that is preferred is usually light and bears a device or pattern identical on both sides.”6
Today we observe Flag Day and celebrate this symbol of freedom and independence. Perhaps we should make the entitled athletes - who choose to dishonor what the TRUE hero in my earlier story died to honor - sit and watch a few dozen of those ceremonies before they’re allowed to pick up their million dollar paychecks for playing games. Perhaps they could also pass out the tissues to the grieving spouses and children. Forgive my cynicism.
President Ronald Reagan said, “When we honor our flag, we honor what we stand for as a nation - freedom, equality, justice, and hope.”7 Today, let’s fly our flags with honor and proudly display our patriotism. Just as a flag is designed to blow freely in the wind, we ask Holy Spirit to once again blow His wind on America. Join me.
Pray with me:
Father, we thank You for Your great love for the entire world. Red, yellow, black and white - You love us all. On this day when we celebrate our homeland, we in America remember that You love all other nations just as much as You love ours. And we pray for them today, that they would experience Your blessing and a special outpouring of Your Spirit.
Your word tells us, however, that there is significance to where we were born and placed by You. Acts 17:26 says You chose our time in which to live and the place of our habitation. We accept the responsibility that comes with this. We pray for America, as others now pray for their nation, asking for healing and the recovery of purpose and strength.
And we here in America do not take for granted the incredible prosperity we partake of and the freedom we enjoy. We are humbled by the abundance we experience. May we ever be mindful of the price others have paid to win this freedom - the blood, sweat and tears. May we also ever remember and be grateful for the favor that came from You because of our allegiance to You. We have enjoyed Your providential care and blessing. We thank You, and pledge, by the power and leading of the Holy Spirit, to turn our nation back to You. Amen.
We decree that America is a nation under God and that she will remain under Him.
Click below to watch the prayer.