Congressman Jason Smith
Stars and Stripes
The red, white, and blue American flag is a symbol known all over the world for American independence, bravery, and sovereignty. For 242 years, the stars and stripes have represented the United States and our American values all over the world. June 14th is not only President Trump and the Army’s shared birthday, but also National Flag Day – a time to celebrate our beautiful flag and why so many hold it close to their hearts.
After declaring independence from Great Britain, one of the first orders of business for our new country was choosing the flag to represent the United States. In 1777, the Second Continental Congress selected the flag hand-sewn by Betsy Ross in her family’s upholstery shop in Philadelphia. Congress passed the Flag Resolution, which is as poetic as it is plain: “Resolved, that the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; and the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”
Flag Day was an unofficial celebration for many years, until Missouri native President Harry S. Truman signed an Act of Congress in 1949 designating June 14th of every year as National Flag Day. President Truman was particularly fond of Flag Day. To him, the flag represented two elements: “I also urge all our citizens to give special thought on Flag Day not only to their many rights and privileges but also to their duties and responsibilities under the national ensign,” said Truman.
Our Union has changed as much as the flag’s over time, reflecting a growing constellation of new states and ideas. The current 50-star version of Old Glory first flew at Fort McHenry on July 4th, 1960, after Hawaii was granted statehood the previous year. This version of the flag flies in every corner of the world, was planted on the surface of the moon, and hung above the rubble of the World Trade Center after the September 11th terrorist attacks. One of the most unifying moments in our country’s history was in the immediate aftermath of that horrible day. Neighborhoods were filled with our country’s waving colors, signifying that we were unbroken and America would get through the terrible attack together. And in times of mourning, our nation flies the flag at half-staff as a symbol of our shared grief.
It’s fitting that Flag Day also falls on the Army’s birthday, which turned 244 years old on June 14th. When I look at the flag, I think of our nation’s storied history and the brave men and women who fought to carry and protect it. It reminds me of the patriots who revolted against tyranny and secured the freedoms we enjoy today. I think of the Marines at Iwo Jima, hoisting Old Glory in a moment of triumph. And I remember that when a servicemember dies fighting to protect our country, our beloved flag drapes their coffin as if our entire country was holding who we’ve lost.
You better believe when the National Anthem plays, I stand for the American flag. Because it stands for our wonderful country, the liberties we are blessed with, and the men and women who fought to protect it.