Herald Journal Columns
June 5, 2006, Herald Journal

A glimpse of what the flag stands for

By KRISTEN MILLER

When you’re young, Memorial Day doesn’t mean much. But as you get older and realize what it means to serve the country and even die for it, the day becomes a day filled with respect and gratitude.

The day isn’t just for those who have lost their lives in combat, but to honor those who have died with a flag on their coffin.

I remember when my dad received my grandfather’s flag at his funeral. It made me cry just watching.

The flag becomes so much a part of our daily lives that we hardly stop to reflect on what it truly symbolizes.

It’s a symbol of the freedom of our nation and the sacrifices so many have done to make it so.

As a nation we forget the importance of freedom. We forget that we are one of the few nations that has that pleasure.

So when I heard Logan Thomson recite a poem written by Amos F. Hurley at Cokato’s Memorial Day program, it became clear just what the flag represents.

‘I am the flag of the United States of America’

“I was conceived in the dreams of liberty and in the hopes of freedom.  I was designed by the hands of Betsy Ross, and her sewing basket was my cradle. 

Though I was never an orphan, I was adopted by the Continental Congress in 1777 and proclaimed the national emblem of a nation newly born on this continent, fighting valiantly for survival and destined to bring to all mankind a new concept of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

“I have been many places and have seen many things.  I have witnessed every event of American history.  I was there when they fired the shot heard around the world.  I was there in the late twilight at Fort McHenry and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the immortal “Star Spangled Banner,” now our national anthem.

“I saw Molly Pitcher take the cannon swab from the hands of her dead husband and help carry on the fight for freedom. 

I felt the biting cold at Valley Forge, and gave warmth and comfort to General Washington and his tired and hungry Continental army.

“I rode with Ethan Allen and the Green Mouton Boys.  I saw the signal that started the midnight ride of Paul Revere.

“I was flown above the decks of Old Ironsides, and from the masts of the Yankee and the China Clippers.  I blazed the trail with Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett.  I led the settlers coming west and crossed Death Valley in a covered wagon.

“I was carried through the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli by the United States Marines.  Once I fell to the ground at Custer’s Last Stand and there were no living hands left to pick me up.  I galloped up the slopes of San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders of the United States Cavalry. 

I stayed with the boys until it was over, over there, and on the battle fields of the Marne, Chateau-Thierry, St. Mihiel, and the Argonne Forest.  I saw many of the youths and manhood of our nation fall and lie still in death. 

They had given their last full measure of devotion.  The war was over for them forever, and I kept my lonely vigil over their graves and stayed to watch the poppies grow amid the crosses, row on row, in Flanders Fields. 

I was raised by five brave men during the “Hell” of Iwo Jima.  I waved farewell to the four immortal chaplains who went down with their ship and to honored glory.  I flew with our nation’s heroes during the Berlin airlift.  I felt the sting of battle in Korea, in Vietnam, and Desert Storm.  I flew faster than the speed of sound with Chuck Yeager.  I walked on the moon with Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin where I remain as a beacon for peace and freedom for all mankind.

“I am many things to many people.  I am an inseparable link in the chain that binds men to God and country; each link welded in the fires of purity by the sacred hands of God, Himself.  And because I am on the side of God, the godless would destroy me; but they dare not, because  I am protected by the mighty land armies of the nation, the powerful and deadly fleet of the Navy and the screaming eagles of the Air Force, watching and waiting to swoop down and destroy anything that would harm me.

“To some I am yesterday, today, and tomorrow; to others I am a glorious child, to some a grand old man or a most gracious lady.  I have several names.  I am called the “Red, White, and Blue,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “The Stars and Stripes,” but I am most commonly known by a nickname given me by and old sea captain, who called me “Old Glory.”

“I have not changed much in my 185 years.  I still have my original 13 stripes, but as each new state came into the Union an new star was proudly added to the constellation of my blue field.  It started with 13 stars; now, there are 50.

“Many more things I would like to tell you, but we haven’t the time; but, I do want to see you again.  I am easy to find. 

I am everywhere.  I am in the homes of the poor, in the mansions of the rich, in Independence Hall with the Declaration of Independence and the Liberty Bell.  I am in the White House with the president.  I am in all the churches, cathedrals, and synagogues, in the Council of the Boy and Girl Scouts of America, in all the schools where they pledge allegiance to me.

“I drape the caskets of our nation’s heroes, borne to their last resting place; the caskets of presidents, generals, admirals, humble privates, and the unknown soldier.  Wherever free men gather; wherever there is justice, equality, faith, hope, charity, truth, or brotherly love; there, too, am I.

May history NEVER write my obituary, for I am the Stars and Stripes FOREVER. I AM OLD GLORY.”


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