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Flag Day will be celebrated June 14. The history of the flag is quite a story. Although many diverse flags were unfurled (and fought under) throughout early American history, it was not until June 14, 1777, that Congress adopted a resolution declaring "that the (official) flag of the United States shall be 13 stripes of alternate red and white, with a union of 13 stars of white in a blue field, representing the new constellation."The origin of the first official flag has many legends. There is an ongoing debate over who sewed the first one. The popular theory is that George Washington called upon Betsy Ross to design and make this first "official" flag. This has been proven to be fictitious. Another more accurate theory names Mary Young Pickersgill and her 13-year-old daughter, Caroline, as having stitched the first flag. Who knows? But, little matter, I contend that all three seamstresses are deserving of this recognition.Also probably fictitious is the legend regarding the shape of the stars. George Washington's committee had requested that the flag include six-pointed stars, but Betsy Ross explained that a five-pointed star would be more attractive than one with six points. The committee answered that many flags would be required and that a five-pointed star was difficult to cut. Ross took a piece of paper, folded it deftly and with one snip of her scissors, cut a perfect five-pointed star. End of debate.Questionable as well are the words credited to George Washington about the choosing of the flag's colors. He allegedly said: "We take the (white) stars and the (blue) heaven, and the (red) stripes from our mother country, separating it by (white) stripes, thus showing that we have separated from her." In reality, there is no record of why red, white and blue were chosen as the colors for the flag. But it was thought that the red stands for hardiness and courage, the white for purity and innocence and the blue for vigilance. They can debate what, who and when, as long as they want to. But for me, what is truly important is that we now have a beautiful flag to symbolize our great nation.Throughout our history, our military made certain to carry the equipment, supplies, provisions and other essentials necessary to win wars. Equally as vital, and carried with pride, were multi-sized, colorful and symbolic pieces of cloth - the American flag. To the troops, the flag represented their country, their family, their way of life and themselves.I am reminded of an anonymous story about "Old Glory" that I read many Flag Days ago. It is still appropriate today."Hello! Remember me? Some people call me Old Glory, others call me the Stars and Stripes. I have also been referred to as the Star Spangled Banner. But whatever they call me, I am your flag, or, as I proudly state... the flag of the United States of America."There is something that has been bothering me, so I thought I might talk it over with you. I remember some time ago, I think it was Memorial Day, people lined up on both sides of the street to watch me leading the parade. When they saw me coming, waving in the breeze, they immediately removed their hats and placed them against their left shoulders so that their right hands were directly over their hearts. Oh, they and I were so proud, as I came down the street."There were soldiers standing at attention giving me their military salute. Also, some veterans of foreign wars, with their caps at jaunty angles, saluting smartly. Ladies, as well as men, paid me the reverence I deserve."Now I may sound a little conceited. I have a right to be, because I represent the finest country in the world... the United States of America. More than one aggressive nation has tried to haul me down, but they all felt the fury of this freedom-loving country. Remember, many of you had to go overseas to defend me."What has happened? I'm still the same old flag. Oh, I've had a couple more stars added since then. A lot more blood has been shed since that Memorial Day Parade long ago. But now I feel Americans are not as proud of me as they used to be. When I come down the street, people just stand there with their hands in their pockets and give me a small glance, then look and turn away. When I think of all the places I've been (during many wars), I wonder, 'what's happened?'"I'm the same old flag. But now I see children running around and shouting as I pass by. They don't seem to know or care who I am. I saw an old man take his hat off and then look around. He didn't see anybody else with their hats off, so he quickly put his back on."Is it a sin to be an American patriot anymore? Have Americans forgotten what I stand for? Have they forgotten all the battlefields where men (and women) fought and died to keep this nation, their nation, free? When they salute me, they are actually saluting the country and those who made the ultimate sacrifice for it. Take a look at the Memorial Honor Rolls sometime. Look at the names of those who never came back and are resting 'neath white crosses (and Stars of David) on far away shores. That's whom they are saluting when they salute me."Well, (I hope) it won't be long before I come down the street once again. I hope people will stand straight, place their hands over their hearts, as they did before. And I will wave back - my salute to them. I'll show them that I, too, remember!" (Author unknown.)Readers, don't forget that Flag Day. "Old Glory" has never let us down in the past and never will in the future. We Americans owe it no less.Reach columnist Alex Berger at email@example.com or call 718-229-0300, ext. 141.
©2005 Community Newspaper Group
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