It’s August. The 4th of July is over, Flag Day (June 14) is long past, and Memorial Day an even more distant memory but the American flag still flies from our front porch.
Some folks only display our country’s red, white, and blue on those holidays with maybe Veteran’s Day tossed in. But at our house, the flag waves from its post yearlong.
I can’t remember exactly when Papa and I decided Ol’ Glory should always remain outside our home come whatever season, whatever weather, day or night, but I know we’ve already worn out one flag and put it to rest as custom and respect dictates.
Our flag flying might be attributed to the fact that my husband is a military veteran and our family is proud and thankful for his service to our country and that flag. Or it may also be attributed to the history buffs in our family – namely Papa and Middle Daughter.
In any case, we’re a grand old flag flying family. A few years ago, our family’s Australian friends came to the United States to visit and as they traveled around the country, they kept track of how many American flags they spotted flapping in the breeze. They were surprised as the number increased significantly on their journey and I can only deduce that they don’t see Australian flags in abundance in their own country.
All of these thoughts meander through my mind since one of the stops we made on our week-long venture from home in June was Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland If you’re not familiar with this historical site, during the War of 1812, American soldiers at this coastal fort successfully defended Baltimore Harbor in the Chesapeake Bay from the British navy.
After the battle finally ended, a large American flag was raised over the fort demonstrating British defeat and American perseverance.
Watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry from a truce ship in the nearby Patapsco River, Frances Scott Key witnessed the flag hoisted into the air and was inspired to write a lengthy poem about the red, white, and blue. Eventually that first verse of his poem became the familiar lyrics to our American national anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner. To read the poem in its entirety, click here.
It was a misty, slightly rainy morning as we toured this national park/monument and yet our country’s flag waved overhead. We shared our time with a few busloads of elementary-aged school children on one of those end-of-the-year field trips and it was tricky to snap photos without getting the students in view.
But amidst all the running and climbing and yelling performed by the children, Papa and I managed to enjoy our tour. We walked around the parameter of the pentagonal-shaped fort, o’er the ramparts, so to speak.
We found a few serene moments just gazing out at the Chesapeake Bay and imagining a fierce battle taking place all those many years ago. And I felt awe and respect for that American spirit of battling for freedom and what is right that those who fought on that ground had done.
But the best part of all for me, the most awe-inspiring moment of the morning, was inside the visitor center. We rested on benches in a small, darkened theater-like area watching a short documentary video detailing the battle at Fort McHenry and the story behind Frances Scott Key witnessing the grand ol’ flag still flying.
At the end of the video, the Star Spangled Banner began to play. Each person stood in respect; some of us placed our hands over our hearts as we listened to those old words that most Americans know by heart.
O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming!
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there:
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
As we faced the large screen where the video had informed us and listened to our national anthem playing, the screen lifted up into the ceiling and in its place, we faced an entire wall of large, floor to ceiling plate glass windows…overlooking outside where the American flag proudly waved.
I was too awe-struck to even pull my camera up to my eye and snap a photo.
Call me sentimental. Call me patriotic. Call me proud to be an American. Call me however you wish to categorize me, but the sight choked me up and tears overflowed as I listened to those words and music while gazing at my country’s symbol of freedom.
It was a moment I won’t soon forget. We may have our struggles in this country. We may not all see eye to eye on a variety of issues. We have our virtues and we have our faults.
But I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else but this land, the land of the free and the home of the brave. America, God shed His grace on thee.
“There is nothing wrong in America that can’t be fixed with what is right in America.” ~ former President Bill Clinton in his first inaugural address, 1992