Source: United States House of Representatives – Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO-03)
When our nation was in its earliest days following the Revolutionary War, our Founding Fathers saw the importance of establishing a symbol that told not just England, but the entire world that we were our own, independent country. The war had been fought with each of the colonies operating under their own individual flags. But when then General George Washington led our young country to victory against the British, it was clear that one uniting emblem was necessary to make our triumph official.
The Second Continental Congress passed a resolution on June 14, 1777 that said the flag would have thirteen alternating red and white stripes, and thirteen stars, “white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” So, on June 14th every year, we celebrate Flag Day and official adoption of the Stars and Stripes as our nation’s flag. The blue square, or “union” as it’s referred to, has changed a bit over the years as more states joined our nation and more stars needed to be added, with the last two being Alaska and Hawaii in 1959 totaling the fifty that we have today. But the thirteen stripes representing the thirteen original colonies have remained and continue to be a tribute to the first Americans who started this country and fought for our freedom from the British.
As a kid, I always enjoyed learning the various protocols and traditions that come with displaying the most notable symbol of America, and I believe in the importance of observing them today. For instance, when an American flag is flown in a parade, it must be displayed higher in order than the other flags. If there are two flags side-by-side, it must be on the right and if there is a line of flags, it must go first. When hanging a flag, the union should always be on the top left corner and the American flag should never be left out overnight unless there is a light shining on it. And of course, as most of us were taught from an early age – never let the flag touch the ground!
Along with Flag Day, June 14 is the U.S. Army’s birthday. That brings us to perhaps the most important, and certainly the most emotional, tradition in which our flag is used. When soldiers go into war, they swear allegiance to our flag. They stand at attention and salute it when presented. They wear it on their uniforms, and those who make the ultimate sacrifice for all of us come home in a coffin draped by it. Throughout the 247 years of the Army’s existence, far too many coffins have worn the red, white, and blue, but our symbol of democracy also makes it clear to onlookers that the American laying to rest is the best among us.
The American flag has become synonymous with freedom, and American pride across the world. It is a vital part of our national identity and a symbol that brings us all together. Children here in Missouri and across the country start learning the Pledge of Allegiance as young children for a reason. We can have differing beliefs, ideals, and politics, but at the end of the day we’re all Americans – and that is a powerful thing. This is the greatest country in the world, and our flag represents everything good about this nation and reminds us that freedom does not come free.