– AMERICAN PRIDE –
By E. L. Binkley
Pride in America didn’t start with Columbus landing in 1492 or the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock . Pride in America didn’t even start with the winning of the Revolutionary War that won our freedom from British rule. Granted, we were proud of the fact that we had defeated the mighty empire and that the thirteen original colonies had prevailed but, we were a fledgling nation at best. We had no constitution, no bill of rights, and no established government to speak of. All of that was to follow but, it would take time.
George Washington, who commanded the Colonials in their victorious battle against the Red Coats, better known as the British troops, was to become our first President of the United States and thereby be referred to as the Father of Our Country.
During the battles fought in the Revolutionary War we, as a nation newly born, need a banner to hold on high. Miss Betsy Ross, a seamstress, sewed our first flag which she did in Red, White and Blue cloth. The blue was used for the background for the circle of thirteen stars in the upper left hand corner occupying one quarter of the flag. The stars represented the thirteen original colonies united as one, hence the continuous circle. There are thirteen red and white stripes also representing the thirteen colonies that run horizontal across the remainder of the flag starting with red at the bottom and alternating red and white to the top ending in red again. For indoor flags, a gold braid or tassels are added around the edges.
As we grew as a nation and as we added more states to the union the circle of stars were replaced with stars in a line stacked bottom to top until they now cover the whole blue background with fifty white stars representing the fifty United States. There are forty-eight states within the Continental United States plus Alaska in the northwest and the Hawaiian Islands in the central Pacific Ocean. The thirteen red and white stripes have not changed and still represent the thirteen original colonies.
The American flag has been called by several names The Grand Old Flag, Old Glory, The Red, White and Blue, Our National Banner, The Flag of the United States of America and, of course, The American Flag. What does it mean when we fly the American flag? It means that everyone under that flag is protected by the United States of America equally and without exception. Be it in this nation or any nation around the world that asks for our help, they are protected. Where ever our flag flies is considered to be American soil as long as the flag remains there. An attack on our flag is an attack on America. Ask any veteran.
Years ago it was determined by the United States Supreme Court that burning or otherwise defiling the flag of our nation was considered to be freedom of speech and therefore was not punishable under law. There are tens of thousands, yea, hundreds of thousands of men and women alike that have died carrying that flag into combat, defending the ground where that flag had been raised, aboard a ship that flew her colors or simply the liberty and freedom for which it stands. Ask them, who gave the ultimate sacrifice, if they consider it freedom of speech or are they spitting on the graves of those who died for it.
Pride in ones country is not something that you can buy or declare into existence. Pride is something that happens or it doesn’t. Pride in country, like liberty and freedom, comes with a price. Sometimes you don’t even realize it’s there until it appears.
During the Civil War the Union or Confederate soldier, if able, would hold his flag off the ground, though mortally wounded, and would try not to die until another could relieve him of his duty. Incidents like that were recorded and that is pride. There was a marine who, during World War II, carried a small American flag from the states, through the landings and initial combat on the island of Iwo Jima. He carried that little flag neatly folded in his shirt and then carried it up on Mt. Surabachi, tied it to a pole and, with help, raised the flag in victory. That flag was later replaced by a larger flag that could be better seen by the troops on the island and sailors on the ships off shore but the importance placed on that little flag by that one marine and his buddies who survived that first day, now that’s pride.
There are incidents like that from the Korean War, Vietnam, Granada, and both Gulf Wars and, yes, most of those incidents do happen in combat areas where life and death are a fact of life itself. Where your mortality can be measured not in months or years but in mere seconds, our combat troops will defend our flag to the man and so it has been through history. When we see someone defiling our flag or burning it in protest it’s like they’re stepping on our souls. True Americans, that is.
You can’t ask the question, “Why would a man or group of men die for a few pieces of sewn cloth?” You would get a different answer each time but it would all stem from pride. Pride in country, pride in your unit, and pride in what the flag stands for such as liberty, justice and freedom or simply the flag itself. The flag is every American. When you look at the American flag it’s like looking at every American of one faith, one color, with the same features and physical make-up. We are no different from one another when we are all Red, White and Blue. When you step on my flag, you are stepping on me.
When the United States Navy was first formed to protect our shores from the British in 1775, the Continental Congress authorized the forming of three companies of U. S. Marines in Philadelphia to accompany the ships in pursuit of British ships bringing war supplies to their troops in the colonies.
The drummers of those first ever marine companies painted their drums yellow with a rattlesnake wrapped around the drum. This was later made into a flag with a yellow background and a coiled and ready to strike rattlesnake in the middle with the motto “Don’t Tread on Me!” directly below. The flag was presented to the Continental Congress by Col. Christopher Gadsden who was later credited by having the flag named after him.
Those first marines, though they had not yet gone into combat as a unit, displayed the pride that made this country what it is, or should be, today. Though they had not yet been bloodied their flag said it all. “Don’t Tread on Me!” That’s how most Americans feel about the American Flag as well. “Don’t Tread on Me!”