COMMENTARY: Focusing on our flag — a powerful symbol

 

It was a June day in Philadelphia, perhaps very much like today, that the delegates to the Second Continental Congress voted on a simple motion that created the most recognizable, enduring and powerful symbol of freedom and democracy that the world has ever known.

The motion read as follows:

“Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

That “new constellation” has grown in the 238 years since our forefathers made the Stars and Stripes our flag. The constellation is brighter, and just as we look at the stars above for inspiration, guidance and direction, the world can look to our 50 stars for hope and the promise of freedom.

Rep. William Carson

Rep. William J. Carson

The same flag that flies over us today flies across the globe, most recognizably on the uniforms of our military service members. They carry our flag on missions of peace, providing aid to stricken people in times of disaster and hardship. And when they must, they carry our flag into battle against those who seek to exploit the innocent and undermine the values of equality and justice.

With our banner on their shoulders, the men and women of our armed forces embody the “new constellation” that was envisioned when the flag was designed. At home and abroad, our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines display the same unity, strength and honor that the Stars and Stripes represent.

Recently, it was my honor to help recognize some of those brave Americans who served, as well as those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Last month on the floor of the House of Representatives, I introduced a resolution marking Vietnam Veterans Week, and presented tributes to a group of Delaware Vietnam vets whose service did not end when they returned home and took off their uniforms. They dedicated their lives to honoring their fellow veterans, sheltering them, feeding and clothing them, and making sure they have access to medical care.

To these men and the hundreds of Delawareans like them, the flag of our country also represents a promise to our military veterans: A promise that their fellow citizens will not forget them or the sacrifices they made in our name; a promise to treat them with respect and appreciation, and to ensure that they are cared for in their times of need.

Unfortunately, we have not always lived up to that promise. For that we can only beg their forgiveness, and pledge to them, in the words of the Vietnam Veterans of America, “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”

Today, we have a new generation of heroes carrying our flag on foreign shores and returning home with wounds from the battles they have fought, both physical and psychological. We must dedicate just as much effort to keeping our promises to these young veterans, as well.

For those Americans who serve in other ways, the flag is a symbol of their commitment to making their state, county, city or town a safer and more peaceful place to live. Sewn on the sleeves of our police officers, firefighters and other first responders, the flag inspires trust in their commitment to be there whenever we may call for them.

When the founders of our nation sat down to create the flag that would stand as the symbol of this new nation, it’s hard to believe that they could have known just how powerful that symbol would become. But they did have hope. They hoped that their “new constellation” of shining white stars on a deep blue field, flanked by those bold stripes, would inspire not only future generations of Americans, but billions of people across the world.

We thank them for the hope they embodied, for the inspiration they sparked, and we salute them for the flag they gave us.

Editor’s note: State Rep. William J. “Bill” Carson, a Democrat, is a veteran serving the 28th District in the Delaware House of Representatives. District 28 includes Smyrna and surrounding communities.

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