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The meaning of the American flag

Jun. 07, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

The flag is a symbol of our great nation. It is a symbol that represents not only who we are, but also what we stand for and what we believe. Our flag is often taken for granted and its powerful symbolism ignored. As Flag Day 2013 approaches, take time to think about what our flag has meant, and continues to mean to so many, especially our military.

The flag consists of 13 stripes -- seven red stripes that alternate with six white stripes. We started with only 13 colonies that stood against the oppression of the British Empire. These colonies became the 13 original states. It was from these humble beginnings that the United States grew to be one of the greatest nations in the entire world. These stripes remind us of our proud beginnings and of our resolve to be free.

The field of blue represents the freedom to expand and explore the world and beyond. We need to remember that when the flag was created, there was much of the country yet to be explored. This same spirit applies to the fields of medicine, exploration and the frontiers of space. We are a people who love to discover, to enlighten, and to create.

The flag originally only had 13 stars with 13 stripes. When additional states were added to the nation a new star was added to the flag. The stars represent the hope and prosperity that exists in the 50 states that make up our nation. Now our united states are represented by 50 stars, one per state. The stars represent the hope that our nation shows to the entire world.

The colors of the flag stand for far more than most of us realize. The red, white and blue stand for more than just national colors or colors available at the time. Red stands for hardiness and valor. Hardiness is being able to endure the hardships of life and life in colonial America could be extremely difficult. Early Americans were known for being tough and had great stamina because of the rigors of colonial life.

Red also stands for the courage that was seen in early America. We often forget that the men who signed the Declaration of Independence were basically signing their own death certificate. The British made every attempt to hunt down those who signed the declaration during the war and many of those men paid a high price for their courage. We see courage alive and well today. Each time that we see our troops on television or at home on leave, we are seeing courage in action. These brave men and women are a reminder that the spirit of valor is alive and well today in these United States of America.

White stands for purity and innocence. These qualities seem to be in rare quantity in our society today but in Colonial America, the people stood for their faith in God and their belief in this new nation. America was fresh and new when they designed the flag. There was an innocence that seemed to permeate the nation because it was a new country. Purity was part of the design because the land was new and unspoiled.

Blue stands for vigilance, perseverance and justice. America has always been alert and aware of the issues of freedom that endanger our world. We care about the plight of other people and other nations being oppressed. We desire to see the freedom that we enjoy granted to everyone in the world.

Believing that by promoting patriotism at an early age will enable our student to develop a sincere sense of pride in their country which will be with them their entire life, the Kanawha Valley Chapter Daughters of the American contacted kindergarten teachers and invited them to participate in a program to teach their students about our flag and to learn the proper way to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Chapter Flag Chairman visited the classrooms of the participating schools and talked with the students about the meaning of the flag. Each student was presented certificates of accomplishment for reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, a small flag and a badge declaring they were "Junior American Citizens." Teachers were given copies of the Flag Code and a poster with the Pledge of Allegiance for their classrooms. More than 500 students participated in the "I Pledge Allegiance" program this year.

"It was a pleasure visiting with the kindergarten classes this year and seeing what a wonderful job our teachers are doing in teaching our little ones about their country," said Kanawha Valley Flag Chairman Lois Taylor. "I look forward to visiting even more schools next year."

As we observe Flag Day on Friday, June 14, proudly fly your flag and let the world know that the spirit that began this great nation lives on. As Americans we have every right to be proud of our culture, our nation, and our flag. It must always remain as an enduring symbol of our nation's ideas. Our flag cannot be taken for granted. It will endure only as long as this nation and its people uphold the values it represents.

Shirley M. Gilkeson is Past Vice President General, Honorary State Regent, and Honorary Regent Kanawha Valley Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She can be reached at SGilkeson@aol.com.

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