The American Flag: I Pledge Allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the flag of The United States Of America.  And to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God…… wait a second.. what does any of this even mean?

If you were at all like me as a kid growing up (hopefully not too much like me, that’d be a scary sight 🙂 ), I’m sure you spent a few minutes in school every morning on your feet before the flag, still in a half-asleep trance, reciting “The Pledge”.  As the years went on, I began to realize that I could recite this patriotic collection of 36 words backwards, forwards, inside out and upside down.  However, I soon began to wonder– What does it all mean? Does one piece of colorful rectangular fabric really have the authority to command my undivided loyalty and absolute allegiance?

Of course!” I decided, “I must do what any true scholar would do in this sort of life-defining situation!” — so I Googled it.

Betsy Ross Flag
Betsy Ross Flag

After countless seconds of extensive research, I finally stumbled upon the vast and infinite wisdom of none other than the great Wikipedia.  Apparently, the first American flag was originally created on June 14th 1777, just one short year after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  As I’m sure most Americans know, it consisted of a field of 13 stars arranged in a circle in a field of blue, surrounded on 2 sides by 13 stripes, alternating between red and white.  The American flag has been changed 26 times since its inception, with the addition of additional stars for each new state that has since acceded to the Union.  However, despite all of its changes, the American flag has managed to retain its trademark red, white, and blue colors.

Although there have never been any official statements as to what exactly the colors of the flag are meant to symbolize, certain traditions have attributed the colors to a few widely accepted meanings.  For example, it is generally accepted that the red in the flag stripes represents the blood shed by our military in defense of our great country and its freedoms.  The white is attributed to America’s supposed purity, and the blue represents truth and a dedication to justice.

The 50 Star American Flag
The 50 Star American Flag

I must admit, for years I guess I was probably pretty guilty of just trying to be cool without ever really knowing what I was saying.  I mean — everyone else is saying The Pledge, I guess I should jump on the bandwagon too, right?

All jokes aside, I’m glad I finally got the chance to realize what that rectangular piece of fabric really stands for.  No longer am I simply “pledging allegiance to the flag”, I am instead pledging allegiance to the brave men and women who gave that flag to me, and pledging allegiance to the noble virtues and values it represents.


Flag History: Ancient to Present Day

Pennsylvania Flag
Pennsylvania Flag

You see flags everywhere from federal buildings to clubs and organizations. Flags are used to commemorate special celebrations and events. They are also flown at half-mast to honor the dead, and draped over the coffins of national heroes. Most people know the current meanings of flags, but do we know flag history?

People have been using flags for more than 4,000 years. Ancient flags were called vexilloids, meaning guide, made of metal or wooden poles featuring a unique carving at the top of the pole. The first known metal flag is made of metal from Iran dating back to 3000 BC. Evidence of flags has also been found on ancient Greek coins and Egyptian tomb carvings. As time went on, approximately 2,000 years ago, pieces of fabric were added to vexilloids for decoration creating similarity to flags of today.

POW MIA Flag
POW MIA Flag

Now, we fast-forward to the middle ages of knights, kings, and queens. Long ago during the Middle Ages, flags were used as a means to give others information, such as who they are. During the middle ages, knights carried flags for identification purposes, because it was difficult to discern whom the knights were when they were covered in armor for battle. Flags were of great importance during this time because they helped soldiers discern friends from enemies in battle.

Today flags are used to convey information, signals or stand for special symbols or things. Many organizations including the Girl Scouts and the United Nations have flags. Clubs and organizations also have their own flags. For example, the five circles of the Olympic flag represent to joining of people from five continents in friendly competition. The United Nations flag displays an image of olive branches cradling the world conveying a message of peace. Notorious people such as royalty have their own personal flag to fly over any building they are staying.

Canada Flag
Canada Flag

It really is quite interesting how flags have evolved over the last 4,000+ years and it is time to celebrate current flags. There are flags for everything from holidays, armed forces, international, and much more. Find your favorite flag!