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Why We Stand for the Flag

Adrian Smith 3rd Dist

On my recent trip to the beaches of Normandy, I witnessed a striking testimony of patriotism when American veterans of the D-Day invasion made the extraordinary effort to stand resolutely for the presentation of the American flag at a ceremony. Each of these men were around 100 years of age, and for many, standing came with extreme difficulty. Time had taken much of the strength from their legs and backs, but it had not taken the love of their country from their hearts.

While our nation’s flag code directs that all Americans should stand for the flag, everyone in attendance that day would have understood if these former soldiers had respectfully remained seated. Nevertheless, even after giving so much for the cause of freedom, these gentlemen felt a duty to muster the power to rise from their seats, many from wheelchairs, to honor the red, white, and blue.

Our nation’s annual observance of Flag Day commemorates the passage of a resolution by the Second Continental Congress to adopt the flag of the fledgling United States on June 14, 1777. This holiday, which happens to coincide with the birth date of the U.S. Army in 1775, is sometimes overlooked. However, it holds a weighty significance in the life and discourse of our nation, especially during a time of political apprehension and disunity.

We stand for the flag and the anthem in allegiance to and gratitude for American values of liberty and justice for all. While our republican system of government anticipates disagreement and provides democratic means to address it, our flag remains a symbol under which we can come together. It reminds us of our shared history and our equality as American citizens. Just as no American can take for granted the price of freedom, no American should be above the guidelines for treatment of the flag.

Disdain for the American flag shown by protesters on college campuses and elsewhere in recent months is concerning to say the least. Sadly, vandals of the flag seem not to understand or acknowledge how groundbreaking it was when, just a decade after our flag was recognized, their First Amendment right to protest became formally enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. That flag remains a beacon of hope for oppressed people around the world.

What I witnessed on the anniversary of D-Day in France was reminiscent of my experience with a 106-year-old Third District Nebraskan named Arlene with the same determination to stand as The Star-Spangled Banner rang out at an event in 2016. I haven’t forgotten Arlene’s devotion, and I won’t soon forget the actions of the veterans in Normandy who had already given so much for their country. None would claim America is without flaws, but all who were physically able rose to their feet in reverence for those who struggled, bled, and died to make the land we call home the greatest country in the world. We stand for the flag for the same reason.