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TODAY’S COLUMN: Supervisor Ruth Anderson on Patriotism

Over Thanksgiving, I visited Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, VA. It was a nostalgic visit, having served there for several years during my active duty career in the United States Air Force. As I walked toward the Commissary at 5 pm, the sounds of Retreat stopped me in my tracks. Cars stopped, active duty and veterans saluted, and others placed their hands over their hearts.

My body had a well-honed response…I faced the base flag, saluted, and stood at attention while our National Anthem and flag were honored. This particular time, I also shed a tear for our nation. Why? Because some in our Commonwealth now question the rationale for respecting these national symbols.

In 1776, our founders declared our independence with these simple words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed a resolution officially designating the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of our new nation.

When President Harry S. Truman signed Flag Day into law in 1949, his salient words described the flag’s meaning:
“…the American flag, which has become the symbol of our freedom, was adopted by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777; and
…it is our custom to observe June 14 each year with ceremonies designed not only to commemorate the birth of our flag but also to rededicate ourselves to the ideals for which it stands; and
…this beloved emblem, which flies above all our people of whatever creed or race, signalizes our respect for human rights and the protection such rights are afforded under our form of government…”

Our flag and anthem represent the “ideals” for which our nation stands. They do not represent perfection. Our humanly-flawed founders and many more since the Revolution have fought and died to defend our ideals of freedom. While I served 21 years in the military and later did humanitarian work in countries lacking the freedoms we enjoy, the profound privilege of citizenship in this great nation, based on these ideals, was instilled in every fiber of my being.

Let us not dwell on imperfections that existed in people who lived during the founding of our nation and during ensuing struggles to maintain our union. Let us honor the flag and our National Anthem as symbols of our freedoms.

Those born in this nation and those streaming to our shores seeking citizenship are fortunate that the United States of America was a successful experiment based on the ideals of freedom. The USA is unlike any other nation on earth and we are truly blessed! Let us work together to continually strive toward these ideals. 

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