Today is Flag Day, when Americans celebrate the adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the nation's banner by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777, and reflect on the flag's importance as a symbol of "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
The symbolic power of the flag is illustrated in stories from many aspects of our nation's history.
During the War of 1812 Francis Scott Key was exhilarated when he saw the Stars and Stripes still flying over Fort McHenry's defenders of Baltimore Harbor. He wrote of the experience in "The Star-Spangled Banner," which has inspired listeners and vexed singers for two centuries.
In literature, remember Barbara Fritchie of Frederick, Md., who was memorialized in John Greenleaf Whitter's 1864 poem for defending the flag from Stonewall Jackson's invading troops with these moving (though mythical) words: "Shoot, if you must this old gray head / But spare your country's flag, she said." Gen. Jackson spared the flag and her, too.
Even sporting events have a place in flag history. During a 1976 baseball game at Dodger Stadium, two men trotted onto the outfield with an American flag, threw it to the ground, doused it in lighter fluid and tried to set it afire. The Chicago Cubs' center fielder, Rick Monday, dashed from his position and snatched the flag away before it could catch fire. The crowd responded with a standing ovation and a spontaneous, stirring rendition of "God Bless America."
And no flag image is more visually awe-inspiring than the flag-raising on Iwo Jima after a bloody battle in World War II.
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