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Flag Has Been Powerful Symbol, Rallying Point

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 14, 2004 – It wasn't all that long ago that everyone seemed to be flying an American flag.

In the days and weeks after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, American flags sprouted from everywhere.

At the World Trade Center site, New York firemen hoisted an American flag amid the rubble. At the Pentagon, workers paused and saluted as a huge garrison flag was draped next to the impact point.

Flags sprouted on mini-vans and motorcycles. People raised flags on new flagpoles on front lawns and atop apartment buildings. It seemed that every overpass on interstate highways had a flag. And this doesn't count the millions of decals, rub-ons and bumper stickers that featured the flag.

That was the latest manifestation of the flag of the United States of America as a symbol for all that the country stands for.

It seems in time of crisis, the flag is a rallying point.

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress approved the U.S. flag and detailed the composition. Originally, it was literally a rallying point for the troops of the Continental Army. In battle, the unit flag was the center of mass, and from the area around the flag commanders gave orders and rallied troops.

The flag as a symbol of America grew out of the War of 1812. Francis Scott Key was so inspired by the sight of the American flag flying over Fort McHenry on Sept. 12, 1814, that he wrote "The Star Spangled Banner."

"And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night, that our flag was still there."

These words inspire Americans today, and when U.S. citizens see the flag they are reminded that America is still "the land of the free, and the home of the brave."

The American flag has become more than just a red, white and blue design. It has become a symbol of what we stand for as a country. America reunited under the flag following the Civil War. The American flag flew at the Marne in World War I and at Iwo Jima during World War II.

The American flag flew at Porkchop Hill in Korea and Hamburger Hill in Vietnam. It has flown over Grenada, Kuwait, Kabul and Baghdad. It covers the caskets of the fallen as they come home. And just last week, we saw it adorn the coffin of President Ronald Reagan, who in life created new respect for the stars and stripes.

The United States is more than just land fortunately located in North America. The United States is a republic, and Americans do not swear fealty to royalty or land or nobility. Rather, Americans swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and the American flag is a symbol of that oath.

On Flag Day, remember that oath and those who have died for the freedom the American flag represents.

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