Old Glory: More than a Symbol

  • Published
  • By Col. Brian Newberry
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Commander
Every year we celebrate Flag Day on the 14th of June, our Flag's birthday and the day our Stars and Stripes were officially adopted in 1777. For me, more so than ever before, today recognizes our flag as more than just a symbol. This past month, Old Glory blanketed our Fallen Fairchild Warriors, who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, as a final salute. It has never been clearer to me that the American flag embodies our pride. It shows the hope in a nation that is greater than the sum of its citizens.

Our flag represents our unshakable ideal of freedom, a poignant recognition that each of us is given the right to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. No other flag on the globe embodies these ideals with such boldness as our red and white stripes demonstrating both heartiness and purity. Our field of blue shows eternal vigilance with the stars reminding us we are 'E Pluribus Unum', one from many.

So, today on Flag Day, we celebrate the incredible fabric of our flag history. One that is stained with the blood of patriots, but also is carried forward, waving in the breeze by the hopes and spirit of every American generation.

I am very proud of Fairchild, and its deep respect for our stars and stripes. When the time comes to be at half-staff, we lower the flag in unison to pay our respects to our fallen patriots. We keep spotlights on our flags in the deep of night and retire it when we notice a tired flag has run its course. Our nation's love of our flag extends beyond our base boundaries. As I PCS'ed across the fruited plains last year, I witnessed scores of flags displayed proudly on the backs of Harley Davidsons, the sides of famers' barns and on the front steps of courthouses in large and small towns across America.

I am proud of a country that flies Old Glory more enthusiastically, and indeed more defiantly, than any nation on this earth. Downtown Spokane, for example, chooses to fly our flag on the tallest building on the skyline on an amazingly tall flag pole that supports it as it waves with pride over the city.

We are a proud nation, and we show that pride through our very recognizable flag. Clearly, our flag is more than a symbol; it manifests our beliefs, hopes and dreams. As service members, we vow to defend our country with our life. We do, in a sense, vow to give our life for our flag, not the fabric itself, but all that Old Glory represents.
During the Civil War, Union flag bearers were awarded the Congressional Medal of

Honor for heroic actions while carrying the flag. Soldiers looked to the flag for direction and the flag bearers always drew enemy fire being out front. In 1863, regimental color bearer Pvt. Joseph E. Brandle, from the 17th Michigan Infantry, showed his pride in his flag, never wavering in his mission: "...[H]aving been twice wounded and the sight of one eye destroyed, [he] still held to the colors until ordered to the rear by his regimental commander."

When the flag fell on the field of battle, it was incumbent to pick up the flag or it was feared panic would ensue if no flag was seen. Without a doubt, back then as now, we are proud to fly the flag and ensure it never touches the ground. It is clearly more than a symbol, especially for our Airmen. It is us...it blankets our Fallen, it blankets our nation. Let us celebrate our flag every day. Long may she wave!

Editor's note: The quote used in this article was taken from http://www.army.mil/medalofhonor/rubin/medal/.