Happy birthday, Stars and Stripes: Why June 14 is Flag Day

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SAN JOSE, June 14, 2014— Flag Day, June 14, is the day the United States officially adopted the Stars and Stripes. It is the birthday of our American flag.

Most Americans, however, may not even realize there is a holiday to commemorate our flag. It is not an official federal holiday, so Americans may wonder what meaning does the day truly have?

The day of June 14 is historic because the Continental Congress passed an official resolution on June 14,1777, “that the flag of the United States be 13 stripes alternate    red and white; that the Union be 13 stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

With this decree came no specific direction of how the stars were to be arranged. Indeed, such lack of direction led to several different designs of stars, with some arranged in a circle, and some arranged in horizontal lines. Practically, it was up to the flag maker’s discretion as to how the stars were to be arranged on the field of blue.

Ironically, this resolution of Congress made the U. S. flag the official emblem of the country before the U.S. government became officially authorized or recognized. 1777 was the same year that the Continental Congress approved the Articles of Confederation, the document that organized the revolutionary government of the fledgling nation. But, it was not until 1781 that the colonies finally ratified the Articles and the United States became a self proclaimed government of the people.

While the chronology may seem inconsequential, it may represent a deeper significance. The design of the flag is recognized as a symbol of the people: the red and white stripes represent the original thirteen colonies and the stars were meant to represent each new state that entered the union. Fundamentally, the flag represented the organization of each of the populations in their respective geographic regions. The flag essentially represented the unity of the people in their desperate desire for freedom.

In other words, the flag was understood to be a symbol of the unity of people and not simply a representation of the government of the United States because at the time, there was no official government. The birth of the flag, reflective of the unity of the people in their desire for freedom from tyranny, was ultimately followed by the adoption of the guiding principles of the first government, which was eventually followed by the recognition of Britain and France that the United States was a legitimate nation within the community of nations.

Through our history, though the flag changed over time, it still remained the Stars and Stripes and the U.S. flag still remained the symbol of the union of a free people. As the nation grew, the Stars and Stripes became entwined with the history of the people’s struggle for freedom and self-determination. It was a symbol of hope against all hope during the War of 1812, when Francis Scott Key witnessed the miracle of the flag still flying above Ft. McHenry after 25 continuous hours of British naval bombardment. This single event in U.S. history, captured in the words of an eyewitness, gave proof not only that the “flag was still there,” but that American resolve was still alive.

At other moments in our country’s history, the flag represented hope and the symbol of  freedom from tyranny. One of the most famous pictures during World War II is the picture of U.S. Marines raising the flag above Iwo Jima. The symbol of the flag being raised in a victorious manner, after such an embittered battle, gave hope to Americans that the war could soon end. After September 11, 2001, the picture of the firefighters raising the U.S. flag amidst the rubble of the destruction of the toppled towers gave hope to the nation that America could overcome such insidious devastation.

Throughout our nation’s history, the flag also served as a symbol to other people in other lands yearning for freedom because the United States ultimately earned the reputation as the land of a free people, despite the fact that many of the people who came to this land had to fight for their respective freedom. The majority of people have attained freedom in this country because they were willing to work for it and even fight for it. The founders managed to plow the field and sow the seeds of liberty. There were no guarantees made that this incredible experiment would ever work perfectly, or even work at all.

The structure and organization of our government permitted this quest and struggle for freedom for so many people from all over the world. This nation today is a land where such freedom is cherished even to the point of allowing people their freedom to burn the flag. But even when someone burns the flag in disrespect, it says much more about the vandal than the action of desecration. It either indicates the one who destroys the flag is quite ignorant or quite intolerant of what the land of the free truly means.

Our flag deserves to have a birthday. It has represented to so much to so many throughout our country’s turbulent history. It still represents so much to so many today, yet there are those who understand so little about the genuine value of the flag of the United States. It especially is still the flag of “us” – we the people. May “that Star-spangled Banner still wave… Oe’r the land of the free and the home of the brave…”

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Dennis Jamison reinvented his life after working for a multi-billion dollar division of Johnson & Johnson for several years. Now semi-retired, he is an adjunct faculty member at West Valley College in California. He currently writes a column on US history and one on American freedom for the Communities Digital News, as well as writing for other online publications. During the 2016 presidential primaries, he worked as the leader of a network of writers, bloggers, and editors who promoted the candidacy of Dr. Ben Carson. He founded the “We the People” Network of writers and the Citizen Sentinels Project to pro-actively promote the values and principles established at the founding of the United States, and to discover and support more morally centered citizen-candidates who sincerely seek election as public servants, not politicians.