Resolved, That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.
The above description left considerable room for latitude in detail, but the so-called “Betsy Ross” design of red stripes at the outside, and the union bearing the original thirteen five-pointed stars in a circle, was the one ultimately accepted. (My personal favorite has always been the “Bennington Flag,” but I digress.) President Wilson signed a decree establishing the holiday in 1916, and this was matched by an Act of Congress in 1949. To this day, it is not an official Federal holiday, but all real Americans make an effort to fly the colors on this day.
The flag is draped over the coffin of the deceased at military funerals, and custom does call for a specific manner of folding it before the casket is interred. (See above.) Having been in attendance at a funeral with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, I can attest to the ceremony’s ability to stir the heart of any American.
Each time a new State joins the Union, an additional star is added to the union of the flag, calling for a new arrangement thereof. So far, there are plans on the drawing board of the US Army Institute of Heraldry for up to 56 stars.
Our nation's national anthem is less about her special attributes or the loyalty of her subjects, than it is about her flag, such is the level of devotion paid to it. And so, to honor the occasion, we here at mwbh would like to share a story, sent to us (albeit in a roundabout way) by Chaplain Jim Higgins. He tells of an incident that occurred amongst our troops serving in Iraq in May of 2007.
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I recently attended a showing of “Superman 3” here at LSA Anaconda (Balad Airport in Iraq, north of Baghdad). We have a large auditorium we use for movies, as well as memorial services and other large gatherings.
As is the custom back in the States, we stood and snapped to attention when the National Anthem began before the main feature. All was going as planned until about three-quarters of the way through when the National Anthem music stopped. Now, what would happen if this occurred with 1,000 18-22 year-olds back in the States? I imagine there would be hoots, catcalls, laughter, a few rude comments, and everyone would sit down and call for a movie. Of course, that is, if they had stood for the National Anthem in the first place.
Here, the 1,000 soldiers continued to stand at attention, eyes fixed forward. The music started again. The soldiers continued to quietly stand at attention. And again, at the same point, the music stopped. What would you expect to happen? Even here I would imagine laughter, as everyone finally sat down and expected the movie to start. But here, you could have heard a pin drop. Every soldier continued to stand at attention.
Suddenly there was a lone voice, then a dozen, and quickly the room was filled with the voices of a thousand soldiers, finishing where the recording left off: “And the rockets 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 was the most inspiring moment I have had here in Iraq.
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[FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: On this day in 1952, my parents were married, in a country parish church east of Cincinnati. I was not invited.]