First is a short collection of flag day presentations from former President Reagan
This giant flag is a testament to the unity and patriotism of our people and to the deep love and commitment we have for our country, our freedom, and our way of life. I’m reminded of a verse that I once read, written as if the flag were speaking to us now and for generations to come. It said, “I am whatever you make me, nothing more. I am your belief in yourself, your dream of what a people may become. I am the day’s work of the weakest man and the largest dream of the most daring. I am the clutch of an idea and the reasoned purpose of resolution. I am no more than you believe me to be, and I am all that you believe I can be. I am whatever you make me, nothing more.”
If you look out at that grand flag stretched behind us, you can see what we think of ourselves, our country, and our future. That flag was made by and for men and women who still know how to dream great dreams and who still believe they can make their dreams come true. That giant banner was not created by a timid nation, but by a bold one. Not a stitch was sewn in confusion or doubt. We understand that those stars and stripes stand for freedom and the forces of good. We apologize to none for our ideals or our principles, nor the prosperity that we’ve made for ourselves and shared with the world. Let this grand flag forever be a symbol of the potential before us that free men and women can soar as high as their dreams and energy and ambitions will take them.
June 14 1983
This flag that we salute today is a replica of one that flew through the night, as you know, 171 years ago during the bombardment of Fort McHenry signaling defiance to the British and hope and inspiration to Francis Scott Key. Some historians have called the War of 1812 the second war of independence, the crucial test of our young republic as it fought for its life against what was then the strongest nation on Earth. By the end of the summer of 1814, the British had already taken our capital and burned the White House as the Senator told you. Baltimore was the next target in their grand design to divide our forces and crush this newly independent nation of upstart colonies. All that stood between the British and Baltimore, all that stood between America and defeat, was this fort and its guns blocking their entry into Baltimore Harbor.
The British fleet of warships moved within 2 miles of the fort and began a bombardment that was to last for 25 hours. Through the dark hours of the night, the rockets fired and the bombs exploded and a young American patriot named Key, held captive aboard a British ship, watched anxiously for some proof, some sign, that liberty would prevail.
You can imagine his joy when the next morning, in the dawn’s early light, he looked out and saw the banner still flying-a little tattered and torn and worse for wear, but still flying proudly above the ramparts. Fort McHenry and the brave men manning it had withstood the assault. Baltimore was saved. The United States, this great experiment in human freedom, as George Washington described it, would endure.
Thinking back to those times, one realizes that our democracy is so strong because it was forged in the fires of adversity. In those dark days of the war it must have been easy to give in to despair. It truly was a perilous night for our new nation. But our forefathers were motivated by something bigger than themselves. From the harsh winter of Valley Forge to the blazing night above Fort McHenry, those patriot soldiers were sustained by the ideal of human freedom.
Through the hardships and the setbacks, they kept their eyes on that ideal and that purpose, just as through the smoke of battle they kept a lookout for the flag. But with the birth of our nation, the cause of human freedom had become forever tied to that flag and its survival.
As the American Republic grew and prospered and new stars were added to the flag, the ideal of freedom grew and prospered. As our country spread across the continent, millions of the dispossessed, the persecuted, the tired, the hungry, and poor flocked to our shores. And the human energies unleashed in this land of liberty were like those never before seen in this world.
From the mountains of Kentucky to the shores of California to the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon, our pioneers carried our flag before them, a symbol of the indomitable spirit of a free people. And let us never forget that in honoring our flag, we honor the American men and women who have courageously fought and died for it over the last 200 years—patriots who set an ideal above any consideration of self and who suffered for it the greatest hardships. Our flag flies free today because of their sacrifice.
And today we mark the 100th anniversary of the first Flag Day ceremony. It was a small and modest ceremony honoring the anniversary of the creation of our flag, a “Flag Birthday,” as they called it, conducted by a young schoolteacher and his students at the Stony Hill School in Wisconsin. The teacher’s name was Bernard Cigrand, and through his subsequent efforts, he helped establish the national observance of Flag Day. His granddaughter, Mrs. Elroya Cigrand Brown, is with us today to help us celebrate. Congratulations, Mrs. Brown.
We have a few other distinguished relatives with us today—the great-great-great-granddaughter of Francis Scott Key, Mrs. Elizabeth Blunt Wainwright, and her two sons, Andrew and Peter. Mrs. Wainwright, it’s been many years since your ancestor wrote the stirring poem that’s become our national anthem. Now, with that same spirit of self-reliance, a private sector initiative called the Patriots of Fort McHenry has been formed to refurbish this historic monument. I commend the ingenuity and patriotism of the business and civic leaders that are undertaking this important event.
As we mark the 100th “Flag Birthday,” the ideals for which our flag stands still challenge our nation. And today, as before, we strive to reach the full potential of freedom, to put things right, and open wide the door of the American opportunity society so that all of our citizens can walk through.
The great American experiment in freedom and democracy has really just begun. Celebrations such as this remind us of the terrible hardships our forefathers willingly endured for their beliefs. And they challenge us to match that greatness of spirit in our own time.
These anniversaries remind us that freedom is not a resting place, but a constant goal spurring us on to ever-greater achievements. America has always recognized our historic responsibility to lead the march of freedom. Since our revolution, the first democratic revolution, and the founding of our republic, America has been a hope and inspiration to the oppressed and tyrannized the world over.
In the storm-tossed history of our globe, the United States has been a strong and steady rudder, holding the world fast to the course of democratic progress. That progress hasn’t always been easy, and there have been many setbacks along the way. In my lifetime, the world has suffered the agony of the twin inhuman ideologies of nazism and communism. But today freedom is rising. Around the globe, freedom is taking root and growing strong. Over 90 percent of the people in the countries to our south now live in democracies or countries that are confidently moving in that direction. El Salvador, beset by terrorists, supportive of the Communist regime in Nicaragua, has come securely through its own perilous night, and its democratic flag still flies proudly over a free land.
The democratic nations of Costa Rica and Honduras have also suffered from years of armed Communist subversion and recently from outright military attacks by Nicaragua. But the Communist bullying tactics have only bolstered the determination of the democratic Central American nations to defend their freedom. Freedom is the wave of the future.
In those countries around the world where the tyrants still hold sway, new resistance movements are gaining momentum. In Nicaragua, Angola, Afghanistan, and Cambodia, the freedom fighters now fight for their freedom and for human rights. They fight for the same ideals that inspired our forefathers, though the tyrants they battle are incomparably more ruthless. Still, the power and justice of their cause is such that, even despite sometimes overwhelming odds, many of the rebel movements continue to gain recruits and grow in strength.
So, freedom’s story is still being written. The brave defense of Fort McHenry by our patriot army was one of its first chapters. But the story will continue as long as there are tyrants and dictators who would deny their people their unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I would interject here, right now—I have a letter which I treasure very much. It is a full letter. It is on a slip of paper only 2 1/2 inches long and just under an inch in height. But on that is penned a letter, which can only be read with a magnifying glass, and then, in my case, had to be translated, and there are 10 names affixed in signature to that tiny letter. It was smuggled out of a labor camp in the Soviet Union. It was signed by 10 women in that camp who have gone through hunger strikes in their desire for freedom. And the reason they wrote me was to tell me that we, in the United States, represented to them the hope that one day there would be freedom throughout the world. I’m going to keep that letter for as long as I live.
You know, the story, as I say, will continue. Every time we place our hand over our heart and pledge allegiance to the flag, we’ll be reminded that our most precious inheritance is freedom and that history has bestowed on our nation the unique responsibility for its protection.
When the commanding officer of Fort McHenry commissioned the original Star-Spangled Banner, the one that was later to bring so much hope to Francis Scott Key; he ordered one that would be, in his words, “so large that the British will have no difficulty in seeing it from a distance.” Today the flag we so proudly hail still sends a message to any distance that the spirit of a free people is unconquerable and that our democratic nation will always remain “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Thank you all for what you’re doing. God bless you, and God bless America.
June 14, 1985
Next we have a selection from The Flag Keepers’ Flag Retirement Ceremony
(Include a chaplain/prayer per your tradition)
“We are gathered here to destroy these flags that have been deemed no longer serviceable. It is proclaimed that each of these flags has served well.
These flags have inspired those who desired the taste of freedom and have represented hope to those oppressed by tyranny and terror. These flags have welcomed any and all in the name of liberty.
The American flag flies free to the wind. The American flag flies above residential porches, camp sites, small businesses, corporate offices, hospitals, schools, military and naval bases, government buildings and nonprofit organizations. The American flag is the most displayed and recognized banner in the world.
These flags serve as constant reminders to all of us that we live in a country where our freedom has been deeply purchased by blood, sweat, tears and ultimate sacrifice. We must not forsake what those in the service to this flag, and their families, have forfeited.
We have here this day an empty Place of Honor for those who cannot attend due to devastating injury, infirmity, and death.
Please direct your attention to the Place of Honor as I read today’s names of ___ (fill in the number) of those patriots. In your mind’s eye see these people and think about them.”
To all who shall see these presents, greeting. Know ye that these flags have served well and honorably. Their stars and stripes have been loosed to the winds of freedom and have basked in the light of liberty.”
CALL ATTENTION/ALL RISE (Those that Can)
“Please join me to recite the Pledge of Allegiance”: (PAUSE) “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all”.
STAND AT EASE
Read, “The U.S. Flag Code states”, (PAUSE) “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning”.
(OPTIONAL) Dedicate this ceremony to an individual American who loved the Flag (Read previously obtained info about the honoree)
CALL ATTENTION/ALL RISE
Staff member inserts one properly folded flag into the incinerator/fire
Sing or recite the first stanza of God Bless America
“While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free,
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.”
God bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, my home sweet home.
STAND AT EASE
STAFF MEMBER OR CEREMONY LEADER “Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes the ceremony. God bless America.”
When guests have departed, staff members and volunteers burn the remaining flags
Support the Flag Keepers! Visit our Patriotic Gift Store where you’ll find the perfect patriotic gift.
Next is a favorite of mine :THE REASONS WE SERVE This was introduced to me by an Air Force Master Sgt. and they use it for NCO retirements. It comes accross best when done by an adult as I cannot seem to get one of our Scouts to have a deep enough voice and enough strength of inflection to get the deep feeling accross.
Our flag is known as the Stars and Stripes. The union consists of white stars, an ancient symbol of sovereignty, against a blue background. There are as many stars as there are states, but no particular star for an individual state. The stripes represent the thirteen original colonies that declared their independence from Great Britain in 1776. The original symbolism of the colors is not known; however, when Congress chose those same colors for the great seal in 1782, it was indicated that: RED is for hardiness and valor, WHITE is for innocence and purity and BLUE is for vigilance, perseverance and justice.
These are mere words from a book; a book’s definition of our nation’s flag. Yet, these words do not say what we feel in our hearts. Our flag stands for many things. Things evident in the Declaration of Independence, where all men are created equal, with the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The right of the people, to alter or abolish any form of government that becomes destructive. This is what we live for, to be free. Our flag is the symbol of that freedom and what we would fight for, to keep it free and flying high.
Our flag stands for the Constitution of the United States of America. A land and a flag of freedom, freedom of religion, speech, press and the security of persons in their homes. It also provides for a fair and swift trial. It abolished slavery and gives each individual 18 years and older the right to participate in the voting process to have a say in his or her future. Our flag represents all of these things and many more.
In reality, we do not think of our flag in terms of what it has done for us. But, in terms of how each and every one of us feels. Our flag stands for freedom, whether in peacetime or during war and also what we must fight for in order to conserve the ideals that our forefathers meant for us. Our flag flies for you (name of honoree here – if there is one), it flies for me. Long may it fly and wave freely. As the Statue of Liberty states: Free am I, Free are you. God bless our flag, God bless America.