Commentary: Fourth of July perspectives on our star-spangled banner

By Dave Skocik

On July Fourth, Americans celebrate the birth of the fight for our independence. The 56 influential men who signed the strident Declaration of Independence, affirming the right to be free from foreign rule, were guilty of treason to the king of England. They risked confiscation of all they owned, including their lives.

The symbol of that defiance has always been the flag, hoisted on ships’ masts, on ramparts and in public places – and defended to the death.

It was the survival of the giant banner over Baltimore’s Fort McHenry during the British naval bombardment in 1814 that prompted lawyer Francis Scott Key to write that “the flag was still there” the following morning. It convinced the British, who had burned Washington, D.C., that they could not capture Baltimore.

The flag has always been the symbol of our freedom from foreign rule. Tyrants across the globe know that to attack an American vessel, aircraft or citizen is to risk the loss of their own power.

It was the subject of World War II’s most iconic photo at Iwo Jima as four Marines and a Navy corpsman raised it on Mount Suribachi under enemy fire. Today, it covers the remains of those who made the ultimate sacrifice as they arrive at Dover Air Force Base.

Now, kneeling during the national anthem is returning. It’s disheartening to see a growing number of people, particularly the young, who see no problem taking a knee, not in reverence, but in submission to the concerns of others.

The symbol of our nation should not be part of any political statement. It’s a “look at me” intrusion that only solidifies resentment against those who force their opinion on others.

Throughout history, kneeling has always been a sign of submission before kings and tyrants. It preceded the execution of American prisoners of war in some World War II Japanese prison camps and, more recently, people executed by ISIS.

Those who kneel before the flag to feel good about themselves are offending not only the majority of their fellow Americans, but especially veterans and their families. It’s shameful so many are woefully ignorant of our history that they fail to understand that.

The late Sen. John McCain told of fellow Vietnam War POW Mike Christian, captured in 1967. Using scraps of material and a bamboo needle, he secretly crafted an American flag and sewed it inside his shirt. Every afternoon, when they were allowed to gather for a bowl of soup, McCain and others hung the shirt on the wall and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. “In that stark cell, it was indeed the most important and meaningful event,” said McCain.

When the flag was discovered, the guards beat Christian for several hours. “He was not making the flag because it made him feel better. He was making that flag because he knew how important it was to us to be able to pledge our allegiance to our flag and country,” said McCain. Days later, Christian began crafting another flag.

The respect we rightfully provide others should also be extended to the smallest minority of all. They are military veterans of all colors, backgrounds and creeds, who have served, fought and died for the freedoms we enjoy. For them, more than any other group, the flag is the symbol of our nation – all of us. That banner, paired with our national anthem, can bring tears to a battle-hardened veteran.

Veterans’ organizations provide a lot of community outreach, including volunteerism, scholarships, contributions and coaching. As we enter the new sports season, I urge veterans and their organizations to express their concerns to the leaders of schools and organizations that disrespect the flag and withdraw their individual and collective support if nothing changes.

We too can picket events. It led to the establishment of our veterans’ home in 2007.

Dave Skocik is president of the Delaware Veterans Coalition. He lives in Dover.