Flag Day

Flag Day and the Army

On June 14, 1777 the Second Continental Congress passed this resolution:

 “Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

The Flag was designed by member of Congress Francis Hopkinson who requested a quarter cask of wine for his services.  Payment was denied him on the sound ground that he was already being paid as a member of Congress.  Two years previously on June 14, 1775, Congress voted to adopt the New England militia army besieging Boston and so the Continental Army was formed.

I have always thought it appropriate that the Flag and the Army share the same birthday.  The Flag is the proud symbol of the nation but without military strength to back it up, it would quickly become a mere colorful piece of fabric.  John Wayne in a brief speech at the end of the movie Fort Apache (1948), part of John Ford’s cavalry trilogy, captured the spirit of the Army:

As did this passage the following year in the second of the cavalry trilogy, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon:

 

So here they are: the dog-faced soldiers, the regulars, the fifty-cents-a-day professionals… riding the outposts of a nation. From Fort Reno to Fort Apache – from Sheridan to Startle – they were all the same: men in dirty-shirt blue and only a cold page in the history books to mark their passing. But wherever they rode – and whatever they fought for – that place became the United States.

The song That Ragged Old Flag understands the necessity of men willing to fight for the nation, for the Flag, if the country is to endure: Continue reading

Flag, Country and Love

 

Something for the weekend.  Columbia the Gem of the Ocean seems appropriate for a Flag Day weekend.  Written in 1843, by Thomas a Becket, yeah, the name is correct, Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean was probably the most popular patriotic ballad of the Nineteenth Century:

O Columbia! the gem of the ocean,
The home of the brave and the free,
The shrine of each patriot’s devotion,
A world offers homage to thee;
Thy mandates make heroes assemble,
When Liberty’s form stands in view;
Thy banners make tyranny tremble,
When borne by the red, white, and blue,
When borne by the red, white, and blue,
When borne by the red, white, and blue,
Thy banners make tyranny tremble,
When borne by the red, white and blue.


When war wing’d its wide desolation,
And threaten’d the land to deform,
The ark then of freedom’s foundation,
Columbia rode safe thro’ the storm;
With her garlands of vict’ry around her,
When so proudly she bore her brave crew;
With her flag proudly floating before her,
The boast of the red, white and blue,
The boast of the red, white and blue,
The boast of the red, white, and blue,
With her flag proudly floating before her,
The boast of the red, white and blue.
 
 
 

The star spangled banner bring hither,
O’er Columbia’s true sons let it wave;
May the wreaths they have won never wither,
Nor its stars cease to shine on the brave.
May thy service united ne’er sever,
But hold to the colors so true;
The army and navy forever,
Three cheers for the red, white, and blue!
Three cheers for the red, white, and blue!
The army and navy forever,
Three cheers for the red, white, and blue

Here is a rendition by Bing Crosby of Edward Everett Hale’ s story The Man Without a Country.  Published in the midst of the Civil War in December 1863, I have always regarded it as a profound meditation on Patriotism, Home and the meaning of America.  Hale, a grandnephew of Nathan Hale, hoped to bolster support for the Union with this plea for love of country and patriotism.  Schoolchildren used to be taught it, and when I first read it as a young boy it brought tears to my eyes. Continue reading

Flag Day 2014

The American democratic experiment has been successful in many ways. Millions of people around the world look to the United States as a model in their search for freedom, dignity, and prosperity. But the continuing success of American democracy depends on the degree to which each new generation, native-born and immigrant, makes its own the moral truths on which the Founding Fathers staked the future of your Republic. Their commitment to build a free society with liberty and justice for all must be constantly renewed if the United States is to fulfill the destiny to which the Founders pledged their “lives . . . fortunes . . . and sacred honor.”

Saint John Paul II, December 16, 1997

 

 

Something for the weekend.  There is only one song for Flag Day:  The Star Spangled Banner.

Here is the history behind the song:

Back when I was young and dinosaurs ruled the Earth, it was customary for the National Anthem to be played before television stations signed off for the evening.  This was always my favorite of such renditions:

Red Skelton’s immortal rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance seems called for on this day:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HGHdFmu5GU Continue reading

A Priest Born on Flag Day

One of the most highly decorated chaplains of World War II, Father Elmer W. Heindl used to joke that his decorations were simply due to him being in the wrong place at the right time.  Born on June 14, 1910 in Rochester, New York, the oldest of six children, Heindl decided at an early age that he was meant to be a priest and was ordained on June 6, 1936.  He said that being born on Flag Day indicated to him that during his life he would do something to honor the Stars and Stripes.

In March of 1942 he joined the Army as a chaplain.  Assigned to the 2nd Battalion of th 148th infantry attached to the 37th Division, he served on Guadalcanal, New Georgia and in the Philippines.  He quickly gained a reputation for utter fearlessness under fire, giving the last Rites, tending the wounded and rescuing wounded under fire.    In regard to the Last Rites, Father Heindl noted that he did not have time to check dog tags to see if a dying soldier was a Catholic.  “Every situation was an instant decision.  You didn’t have time to check his dog tag to see whether he was Catholic or not. I’d say, in Latin, ‘If you’re able and willing to receive this sacrament, I give it to you.’ And then leave it up to the Lord.”

He earned a Bronze Star on New Georgia when on July  19 and July 23 he conducted burial services, although in constant danger from Japanese sniper fire.  The citation noted that his cheerful demeanor and courage inspired the troops who encountered him.

During the liberation of the Philippines, Captain Heindl participated in the bitter fighting in Manila.  He earned a Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest award in the United States Army for valor, during the fighting at Bilibid prison to liberate American and Filipino POWs who had been through horrors at the hands of their Japanese captors that I truly hope the readers of this post would find literally unimaginable.  Here is the Distinguished Service Cross citation: Continue reading

Flag Day, Red Skelton, Sir Walter Scott, Johnny Cash and Mom

I can think of few things more appropriate for Flag Day than Red Skelton’s immortal explanation of the Pledge of Allegiance.  When my sainted mother became a naturalized American citizen, she was given a little American flag.  I have a treasured photo of my Mom and Dad just after the naturalization ceremony, both happy, and my Mom clutching the flag of a land that she loved long before she became a citizen.  I still have the flag, one of my most precious mementoes of my Mom. Continue reading

Philip Nolan and Flag Day

Today is Flag Day.  Edward Everett Hale, in his short story A Man Without A Country, reminds us that patriotism is a very powerful form of love.  Hale, a great nephew of Nathan Hale who died on a British scaffold and uttered the deathless  “I only regret, that I have but one life to lose for my country.”, wrote the story in the midst of the Civil War in 1863 to help inspire patriotism.

The story is a simple one.  Philip Nolan was a young artillery lieutenant in the United States Army.  He became involved in the  vague scheme of Aaron Burr to detach some territory from the  United States and form an independent nation.  All the big fish escape conviction, but Lieutenant Nolan does not.  At his courtmartial the following takes place:

One and another of the colonels and majors were tried, and, to fill out the list, little Nolan, against whom, Heaven knows, there was evidence enough,–that he was sick of the service, had been willing to be false to it, and would have obeyed any order to march any-whither with any one who would follow him had the order been signed, “By command of His Exc.A. Burr.” The courts dragged on. The big flies escaped,–rightly for all I know. Nolan was proved guilty enough, as I say; yet you and I would never have heard of him, reader, but that, when the president of the court asked him at the close whether he wished to say anything to show that he had always been faithful to the United States, he cried out, in a fit of frenzy,–

“Damn the United States! I wish I may never hear of the United States again!” Continue reading

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