This Sunday is Flag Day. It is an easy holiday to overlook, but we need to stop and reflect on what our flag stands for. Bernard J. Cigrand, a 19-year-old elementary school teacher, placed a ten-inch, 38-star flag in a bottle on his desk and asked his students to write an essay on the flag and its significance. This observance was in commemoration of Congress adopting the Stars and Stripes as the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777. Cigrand spent many years trying to bring about national recognition to this historic day for our flag, especially within our schools. His tireless efforts were rewarded on June 14th, 1916 as President Wilson issued a proclamation calling for a nationwide observance of Flag Day.
Like many young students before me, I began my school day by pledging allegiance to the U.S. flag. Every morning, after the school announcements, I would place my right hand over my heart, look up to the familiar Stars and Stripes and repeat the words that came so natural to me. “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America …” As a daughter of a veteran, I grew up in a very patriotic home, and while I have always had respect for the flag, it wasn’t until more recently that our flag took on a real meaning to me.
A few summers ago, I had the privilege of living and working in our nation's capital. I worked in the Rayburn House Office Building, lived across the street from the Supreme Court, and was immersed in patriotism. During this time, I came to see the meaning behind our flag and the human thread that holds it together. I saw it as I watched an elderly man tracing his friend’s name on the Vietnam Wall. It was multiplied on my visit to Arlington National Park and amplified at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I felt it at the Iwo Jima memorial as I shook the hand of an old “gunny sergeant” who was amongst the Marines who stormed the beaches and launched that famous flag atop the hill.
The flag came to life as I strolled through many of the museums along the national mall. You can see it in the faces of the Apollo 11 Crew and The Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk. As I walked the halls of the National Portrait Gallery, the flag was personified in paintings of past presidents who served as the cornerstone and leaders of our great land. The character and spirit of our flag is shown in the works of Thomas Edison, Eli Whitney, and Henry Ford as they blazed the path for engineering and innovation.
Old Glory has become much more than a schoolroom routine. Today, when I look at our flag I am filled with pride for the history behind it and the principles for which it stands. Our sacred flag of red, white and blue is just cloth, it can be reproduced but countless unique individuals have become the thread that has woven our country into the land of the free and the home of the brave “… with liberty and justice for all.”