All across our country today U.S. citizens are proudly flying the Stars and Stripes of the greatest country in the world, the United States of America. Why bother, and just what does the U.S. flag mean to you?
A little background might help us all realize how very important it is to recognize the symbol of our great country, and what the flag really stands for.
Prior to our country's Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, there were several 13-star U.S. flag designs. During the closing months of 1776 our young nation's leaders came to realize the need for a definite recognizable national flag.
On June 14, 1777, Congress passed an act prescribing that the flag of the United States of America be 13 stripes, alternating red and white, and a blue field consisting of 13 white stars. June 14, therefore, became the "birthday" of our United States flag.
As our country grew and additional states were formed, a white star was added to the blue field. The star or stars would be added to the field on July 4 following the admission of any new state to the union.
The first organized observance of Flag Day occurred on June 14, 1877, the centennial of the original resolution. The main motive was to stimulate patriotism among the young. Schools were the first to become involved in this celebration.
In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation calling for a nationwide observance of Flag Day on June 14. It was not until later under President Harry Truman in 1949 that Congress made this day a permanent observance by signing it into law. It was encouraged that all Americans display the "Stars and Stripes" outside their homes and work places.
So then, what does the flag mean to me? Being the son of a World War II veteran and growing up in a flag-oriented family, I learned to appreciate some core values that "scream out" to me every time I see our U.S. flag.
First, it reminds me that I live in a country that is my home, and that my family and I are safe. The peace of mind this gives me is truly priceless. Secondly, I am reminded that I live in a country that allows me to think and live as I choose. The opportunities this country offers to everyone are limitless. Thirdly, and most importantly, the red, white and blue remind me of the tremendous sacrifices by those before me to secure the freedoms and safety that I am able to enjoy now.
And finally, as I grow older I have come to appreciate more and more just how difficult it must have been for our forefathers to visualize such a great new form of government, and then establish a new country based on the rights and strengths of its citizenry. Their forethought and quest for detail have forged the greatest country in the history of mankind.
So on this birthday of our country's greatest symbol, take some time to reflect on the beauty of "Old Glory" and ask yourself, "just what does our United States flag mean to me?"
Scott Van Gundy is co-owner of Martin's Flag Co. Inc.