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Columns : In My Sights

Respect for Old Glory

The American flag has become the symbol of not only the United States, but also of freedom worldwide.

October 13, 2017  |  by Dave Smith - Also by this author

Illustration: Sequoia Blankenship
Illustration: Sequoia Blankenship
Not long ago my father-in-law died and the Sarge and I went back to his small hometown in Illinois to hold his memorial. Small town America still holds its veterans in high esteem. To demonstrate that reverence the American Legion conducted a wonderful ceremony to celebrate the life of their old commander, 21-gun salute and all. I was holding up pretty well until those old warriors conducted the flag ceremony. How powerful is that folding ritual, where the loved one is given the triangle of cloth that most folks put in a sacred place in their home?

What is it about such symbols that draws us to them, makes us revere them, prompts our outrage at their destruction, yet such destruction is considered protected speech by our courts?

The Stars and Stripes have represented our nation since 1777 and the power of the flag was shown when troops, at the Siege of Fort Stanwix that same year, tore up clothing—including Capt. Abraham Swartwout's blue cloth coat—to create the flag as soon as they were informed that it had been adopted by Congress. Capt. Swartwout was later reimbursed for his coat by Congress, by the way…

Sadly, contrary to popular history, Betsy Ross had nothing to do with our great symbol. Francis Hopkinson, a naval flag designer who was in the position that would later become the Secretary of the Navy, designed the flag—possibly using the pattern of the British East India Company. Regardless of its inspiration, our flag was well received and became the symbol of not only the United States, but also of freedom worldwide. So dominant had the flag become in representing America in George Washington's time, that he lamented the fact that we did not have a "battle flag," a banner common throughout the world at that time.

Today, the Pledge of Allegiance and the Star Spangled Banner are conducted standing before those revered Stars and Stripes, and many of our most solemn moments are experienced at attention under that symbol. No one who has ever observed a first responder's, veteran's, or government officer's funeral could doubt how powerful that flag is when it moves to tears the heroes who serve and protect the nation it represents. Strong voices fail and eyes in hard faces grow misty as the flag is folded and given to a loved one. And watching old soldiers rise from their wheelchairs to stand before an honor guard always wrenches my heart.

It is because of that intensity of emotion that watching a flag burning or a millionaire jock refusing to stand for the Anthem causes my ire to rise way out of proportion. I love football, but it is just "snack food" in my life; the flag represents the "meat and potatoes" of freedom. In fact, I do not actually miss the NFL as much as I thought I would, now that I'm boycotting it. Ridiculous excuses for not standing due to this stanza or that, which are never even sung, are absurd. Especially when you actually read the supposed offending term "slave" in the third stanza, which Francis Scott Key wrote while incarcerated in a British vessel manned by sailors enslaved by England—this being one of the basic reasons for the War of 1812…remember "impressed sailors?"

Therefore, I am a firm believer in saying the Pledge of Allegiance, in standing for the Star Spangled Banner with hat held over my heart, and condemning anyone who burns our flag.

That said, I want to finish by addressing an issue I never thought would become controversial…the thin blue line American flag.

Drive by my house and you will see a black and white flag with a blue line running through it. It shares the form, the love, the reverence of Old Glory, but it is not the Stars and Stripes; it is a reverential emulation of that beloved form to show our sorrow and respect for our brothers and sisters who gave all to protect the nation represented by the Red, White, and Blue.

While some may think it is a desecration, I disagree vehemently; and in this time of crisis and turmoil I think of it as our battle flag. It flies not out of disrespect, but in reverence for our beloved symbol and those who have died for her. It is the representation of our mission to protect the freedoms enshrined at the creation of our great nation!

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand…

Thank you for your service.

Dave Smith is an internationally recognized law enforcement trainer and is the creator of "JD Buck Savage." You can follow Buck on Twitter at @thebucksavage.

Comments (7)

Displaying 1 - 7 of 7

Les Gray @ 10/13/2017 12:40 PM

Very nice article, and I agree with it 100%! I will gladly boycott the NFL the rest of my life (I'm in year 2) and not feel any pain about it whatsoever. False narratives that are promoted without any research or facts to substantiate them are driving a large divide in this country. People accept whatever is put forth by the media/news organizations with little regard to the truth of their reporting. Thanks for stating what a great many of my colleagues believe (retired and still serving the front lines of this nation). We are the thin blue line, and will be until we cannot function in any capacity.

JP @ 10/13/2017 6:37 PM

"JD" I can't agree more. These multi-millionaires make me sick with their shenanigans! After week three, when Villanueva had to apologize to his team for showing respect to the standard which he fought for, I no longer support or stand with these disrespectful ingrates any longer!

SergeantK @ 10/13/2017 8:05 PM


HRPufnstuf @ 10/14/2017 4:45 AM

Battle flag. Now that's something I hadn't thought of. Yeah, let's adopt the B/W flag with the blue line as our battle flag. Fly one right underneath the Stars and Stripes on every police station, Sheriff's office, etc. I like that.

kevcopaz @ 10/14/2017 7:52 AM

Agreed, very old fashioned and patriotic of you!. Even IF the reason the protests are taking place was real and it certainly is not, this would be wrong and not the avenue to take to have your voice heard. All this does is take away something that unites us and divides us further. In my world, and most people I know, this does NOT open up any dialogue it just makes us angry and less likely to even talk to or consider the opinion of the other side. Yet perhaps thats what they really want a more divided antigovernment society so that the "progressives" get what they want...the distraction of the USA period.

drob181 @ 10/16/2017 9:03 AM

Great article Dave, but you might want to consider an edit; the Stars and Bars NEVER refers to the our national flag... it is the nickname of the first flag of the Confederate States, which was three horizontal bars, red-white-red, with a field of blue stars. In fact, the "Dixie" flag argued about today was never the flag of the Confederacy, but was a battle flag that was eventually made part of the the second and third iteration, replacing the blue field of stars (which originally changed as states joined the Confederacy). You're discussing a controversial subject; I'd hate to see you inadvertently add more controversy to it.

David Smith @ 10/16/2017 11:06 AM

To those of you that noticed the original edit with the term "Stars and Bars" I apologize for the error! I tried to think of a way to blame the editor but the Sarge told me to just suck it up and mea culpa!!! Thank you for your service!

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