Archive for June 14th, 2009

I’d like to thank Elks Lodge 101 for the opportunity to speak today as we gather to celebrate our flag – Old Glory – the proud banner that has flown for over two centuries as proof of our independence, commitment and honor.

This constellation of stars on stripes offers us a concrete hold to anchor the abstract concepts our nation had been founded on: liberty, religious freedom, democracy and unflinching sacrifice for the good of people everywhere.

flag hanging

For all of us, it represents so many young Americans that have given their hearts, souls and lives for our nation and in service to others. These are not anonymous faces; they are the boys and girls we sat next to in home room; they are the mothers and fathers that stood long hours in assembly lines manufacturing machinery, tools, clothing and cars; they are the sons and daughters we sat up with late into the night to ward off terrible fevers and kissed lightly before they drifted off to sleep. They are our closest friends and our greatest asset, and they have died for us. They have died for this flag.

Throughout history, this flag has been tested, tried and has survived battles against tyranny, both on our own soil and in battlefields across time and around the world.

It represents 6,000 patriots that gave their lives in the Revolutionary War, covered the bodies of 360,000 bodies in the Civil War, 116,000 in WWI, 405,000 in WWII, 54,000 in the Korean War, and 58,000 in Vietnam. All told, we have suffered well over 1.1 million lost in these conflicts and sadly, we still greet red, white and blue draped caskets every week at Dover Air Force Base as our sons, daughters, brothers, fathers, and closest friends return to final peace here at home.

The flag represents our deeply personal feelings of gratitude and love we all have for these brave individuals and their families.

And just as it is understood by each and every one of us that the flag is a graphic symbol of innocent blood shed for our protection, it also stands for the prosperity and pleasures we all enjoy – the summer picnics, volleyball, hot dogs, and ice cream. It stands for Halloween and happy children safely canvassing neighborhoods for candy in colorful costumes. It stands for a table at Thanksgiving laden with food, warm conversation and close family ties, as well as a twinkling Christmas tree spilling over with carefully preserved memories we call “ornaments” and gifts that are more about love than material content.

Our flag stands atop, or in front of, every courthouse, city hall, school and library in our nation and represents the “American Dream” we all aspire to – justice, education and free commerce. It is recognized globally as a source of assistance, inspiration, opportunity and leadership. We should be very proud today to stand in its presence.

In closing, I’d like to leave you with some words by Beth Chapmin who spoke movingly of our flag in 2005:

flag salute

“Our flag is more than three colors of cloth and millions of pieces of thread sown by hand. It is more than Betsy Ross and Francis Scott Key. It represents a message of hope and freedom that is carried in the hearts and souls of the people of a nation for generations.

I pray today that God will continue to bless this country and that we may never divorce ourselves to the preservation of that freedom for which our men and women have died and our flag still boldly stands.”

Now let us stand and with great pride, honor, humility and resolve – with great enthusiasm, fervor, patriotism, passion and respect to say our pledge of allegiance together as we have never said it before.”

With that, thank you again to the Elks Lodge 101 and the residents of the City of Amsterdam. I hope the next time we recite the pledge together, we keep the ardor of her words close to our hearts.

Photos by Mark Perfetti

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