Next Sunday, June 14, is Flag Day, designated to honor the great American banner, the most recognizable symbol in the world. I've enjoyed the local displays for Memorial Day and notice that more homes are flying our flag than in previous years, a way to make a statement during our troubled times. But what statement does our flag make? Like every symbol, it's subjective, open to interpretation. Many would like to claim the American flag for their personal ideology, to politicize it, but it defies ownership by any one group or individual. It belongs to all of us. That's the point. As our young country fought the British, one of the boldest acts of defiance in world history, each colony had its own flag. We were a ragtag bunch of untrained soldiers who identified more with home colonies. The Brits considered us a joke, yankee doodle dandies, a description that mocked us. No one believed that we could unify to defeat a powerhouse like Britain.
On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed a resolution authorizing a new flag for our new nation; a new identity for a what was really only an idea at that point. The founding fathers had to hammer out what our new nation would be. Could a group of individual states, with regional differences and cultures, work together as one? It seemed almost impossible with 13 states. No one ever imagined 50. Our flag and our nation has been tested many times. There have been pulls and strains, cracks that never broke us. It flew over Philadelphia as the Constitution was heatedly debated and finally adopted. It flew over Fort McHenry when it was bombarded in the War of 1812, moving Francis Scott Key to write the poem that later became our National Anthem. After a long night under attack, as the sun rose, Key saw the star spangled banner still waving, "o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave."
In the mid 19th century, southern states threatened our unity as one nation. Soldiers carried our flag into the bloodiest battles ever fought on American soil and ended slavery. We carried the flag to Europe twice to defeat tyranny, liberating occupied territories and concentration camps. To this day, tiny American flags hang in French windows all over Normandy. Marines lifted our flag at Iwo Jima as our forces fought imperialism in the Pacific. American flags proudly stand on graves in American cemeteries around the world. The American flag was there as we rebuilt so many cities devastated by war. It was displayed on planes that dropped food into Berlin during the Cold War when the Soviets blockaded that city. It was there when our trucks delivered medical supplies and food after natural disasters. Many years ago, I had a conversation with an immigrant from the Middle East. He said he was a little boy living in the countryside with no food to eat. His mother took him to a place where a truck was parked and people was giving out milk and food. He saw the American flag on the side of the truck, and on that day he fell in love with that flag and the idea of a great nation that feeds poor children.
Our flag has also taken a beating through the years because of anger toward some of our government's policies. We've seen it spit on and burned by protesters who believe we have not lived up to the promise our flag represents. But when we come under attack, as we did on Sept. 11, we remember who we are and go back to our roots. Three firefighters raised the flag amid the burning rubble of the World Trade Center, signifying our resolve to fight any enemy who attacks us. As schoolchildren, we all learned to pledge allegiance to "one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Every immigrant who becomes a citizen is proud to hold his hand on his heart and say those words. We believe them. Sometimes we forget them, but when times get tough, the flag reminds us.
Times are tough now, but I see flags everywhere and that gives me hope — red, white, and blue flags hanging on porches all over our towns and from poles lining the avenue.
No matter what our differences may be, we all pledge to the same beautiful flag. We are one nation. That's what our flag, with 50 stars, tells us. One nation, working together, helping each other, respecting each other. E pluribus unum. Out of one, many. That's what it means to me. Let's always honor the flag and give it the respect it deserves. One of the most important parts of the flag code is how we put a worn and tattered flag to rest. West Wyoming American Legion Morning Star Post 904 and local Boy Scouts will perform the Disposal of Unserviceable Flag ceremony at their next meeting on June 11 at the West Wyoming Hose Company No. 1. The ceremony will take place at 7 p.m. after their monthly meeting. The public is welcome, but remember to wear a mask. God bless America.