I took a walk today in the cemetery near my home. A portion of the cemetery is dedicated to those who served in the American Armed Forces. What caught my attention was the fluttering of hundreds of flags. Each seemed to stand as a silent thank you for the service of each man and woman.
A flag is more than just a piece of cloth. It is a symbol of so much more. It stands for a country, a government, and a set of ideas. The American flag symbolizes laws laid out in the Constitution, freedoms given in the Bill of Rights, and the risk taken by the Declaration of Independence.
Contrary to popular belief, the colors of the American flag did not have any symbolic meaning when it was first adopted; however the colors of the flag-like portion of the Great Seal do have meaning. Charles Thompson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, stated, “White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valor, and Blue . . . signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice.” It was quite fitting these colors should fly over the graves of those had given their all.
The stars of the flag, however, do have symbolism. The resolution adopted on June 14, 1777, reads, “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation.” As the many stars formed one design, the many states formed one country.
I continued walking past the flags and I noticed a few of them had fallen over. If they had just been an old rag or even one of the flower displays left on some of the graves, I would have ignored them. But they were flags, lying on the ground. They were a symbol of my country, of my freedom to walk in the sunshine and to say what I chose and to worship how I please.
I picked up the flags and set them back in their places. And I smiled in silent thanks.