The Stars and Stripes, Flag of the United States of America! The world-wide hope of all who, under God, would be free to live and do His will.
Upon its fold is written the story of America – the epic of the mightiest and noblest in all history.
To what man or woman is given words adequate to tell the story of the building of this nation? That immortal story is written in blood and sweat, in heroic deeds and unremitting toil, in clearing the primeval forests and in planting of vast prairies where once the coyote and buffalo roamed. Onward swept the nation, spanning wide rivers, leaping vast mountain ranges, leaving in its path villages and farms, factories and cities, till at last this giant nation stood astride the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
This is the heritage of the people of the United States. It has been repurchased by each succeeding generation and must be rewon again, again and again until the end of time, lest it too shall pass like the ancient Empires of Greece and Rome.
“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” What was won at Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill had to be repurchased at Ticonderoga and Yorktown.
What John Paul Jones achieved upon the high seas in the War of Independence had to be repurchased by Commodore Perry on Lake Erie in the War of 1812.
The prestige of Admiral Dewey's victory at Manilla Bay in 1898 was rewon by the naval battles in the seas about the far-distant islands of the Pacific, after the sneak attacks upon Peal Harbor and Manila in 1941 had summoned our country to assume its role in World War II.
What our troops achieved under the Stars and Stripes at Chateau-Thierry and Flanders in World War I, their sons were required to repurchase in World War II in the bloody trek across northern Africa, on the beachheads of Europe and in the Battle of the Bulge.
The Flag our American men raised at Iwo Jima was the same Flag later raised in the defense of Inchon, Pusan and Pork Chop Hill in far-off Korea. Then another generation under the same Flag bled to stem the threat of communism in far-off Vietnam.
Our young people were again called to carry our Flag in the defense of a free world in the actions in Grenada and Panama. Willingly, our brave men and women carried our Flag and the honor of the American people into battle in Operation Desert Storm.
And who among us will ever forget the sight of firefighters raising our Flag over the ruins of the World Trade Center, the military personnel draping our Flag on the side of the Pentagon, or the citizens of Somerset County, Pennsylvania, placing our Flag near the site where brave Americans died fighting the hijackers of Flight No. 93? No other symbol could have offered such comfort, as we still, today, endure the horrors of that day.
Today, American Armed Forces carry our Flag in the villages of Iraq, the mountains of Afghanistan and the jungles of the Philippines and where ever terrorism may reside. Their struggle against the sponsors of terrorism is the hardest battle yet, and this threat to our Nation, and to our way of life, is certainly as great a challenge as our Flags has ever seen.
The resurgence of patriotism since September 11, 2001, has rekindled respect for our Flag. Today, we see the Star Spangled Banner wherever we turn, on homes, businesses, automobiles and billboards. Such displays stimulate our love for our Nation and for what it stands; they remind us of the sacrifices being made by the men and women of our Armed Forces around the world; and, they are a tribute to the heroes of the Police and Fire Departments the Nation over.
The greatest significance of this Flag, however, lies in the influence it has in the hearts and minds of millions of people. It has waived over the unparalleled progress of a nation in developing democratic institutions, scientific and technological knowledge, education and culture. It has served as a beacon for millions of poor and oppressed refugees abroad and stands as a promise that the under-privileged will not be forgotten.
What is the meaning of the Flag of the United States? There can never be a definitive answer to that question. There are people in this world who see it as a symbol of imperialism; others see it as a destiny of the people. But reference to these and similar views of the Flag was resolved by Woodrow Wilson when he said: “This Flag, which we honor and under which we serve, is the emblem of our unity, our power, our thoughts and shape of this nation. It has no other character than that which we give it from generation to generation. The choices are ours.”
Only love, true love of our fellow man, can create peace. The emblem and token of that love is the Stars and Stripes, the symbol of the American way of life.
Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Ritual for Flag Day.