At the outbreak of the “War of 1812,” a humongous American flag waved from atop the flagpole over Fort McHenry. The British army detested that flag as an affront to the “Royal Crown” and ordered Fort McHenry to cease flying it – immediately. When the defenders of the fort defied that directive, an admiral commanding an armada of British warships unleashed a hellacious bombardment upon the fort that went on for twenty-five hours. Key was a prisoner on one of those ships and could see Fort McHenry from afar. When, finally, the British gunships fell silent in the night, he wondered if the flag had been brought down by the bombs. The next morning, “in the dawn’s early light,” he was beside himself with joy at the sight of the Stars and Stripes waving defiantly over Fort McHenry. That triumph consecrated the souls of the soldiers who gave their lives at the base of the flagpole to keep Ole Glory raised. Francis Scott Key was so moved that he seized his pen and captured the event in the words of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The Star-Spangled Banner was born of the flag of Fort McHenry and the flag of Fort McHenry was born of The Star-Spangled Banner. They gave birth to each other. The massive bomb-damaged flag from the War of 1812 resides now in the archive of the Smithsonian National Museum. It is a treasure of American heritage that draws millions of visitors a year. The Star-Spangled Banner was eventually set to song and, on March 3, 1931, was designated to be the national anthem of the United States of America.
The years beneath my gray hair go to “way back when.” Coming forward from then to now, I have noticed, year-after-year, that fewer and fewer Americans fly the Stars and Stripes on Flag Day. I have to confess that observing their disappearance is a troubling experience. But being the eternal optimist that I am, I’m hoping that this June 14th, the flags of Flag Day will go “viral” and paint the skies over America with the “colors” of our nation.