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Seeing the flag wave

May 28, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

Thank you to all who have served, are serving and will serve - allowing this great country to be what it is.

We can all lament about what it is becoming, or what we all think might be around the corner, but we are privileged to be citizens of the United States of America.

We choose our leader and then spend the next four years complaining about him.

We choose our leader based on what criteria?

Do we choose our leader because he is the lesser of two evils?

Do we choose our leader because he is obviously the right choice?

Fact Box

O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,

O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming!

And the rockets's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there:

O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,

Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,

As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the mornings' first beam,

In full glory reflected now shines on the stream:

'Tis the star-spangled banner! O long may it wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore

That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion

A home and a country should leave us no more?

Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!

Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation

Then conquer we must when our cause it is just

And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

There is no greater country.

The men and women of the armed forces are performing one of the greatest acts of selflessness in this world.

They are not there to look in the camera and say 'Hi mom.'

There is no whining about playing time in the armed forces.

For that, I am grateful.

There are no parents walking up to a general and asking, "why isn't my son or daughter on the front line more often?"

Could you imagine that conversation, though?

Memorial Day is observed in honor of the nation's armed services personnel killed in wartime.

Local observances became widespread throughout our one nation after the Civil War, a four-year battle, ended with more than 600,000 casualties.

They all died, on both sides, for freedom.

On May 30, 1868 thousands of people gathered at Arlington National Cemetery to honor the dead and observe Decoration Day. It was a day to decorate the more than 20,000 graves of the dead from the Civil War in the cemetery.

After World War I, Memorial Day was changed to honor the dead from all American wars.

The United States Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday in 1971.

In the fall of 1864, President Lincoln was informed that a Boston widow, Lydia Bixby, had lost five sons in the Civil War. President Lincoln wrote to her:

Executive Mansion

Washington, Nov. 21, 1864

To Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Mass.

Dear Madam,

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.

Yours very sincerely and respectfully

A. Lincoln

I spent last week on vacation and the first part of it in Baltimore with the freshman class at Jefferson County Christian School as a chaperone.

We had a great time.

We spent Wednesday morning at Fort McHenry, the site of the Battle of Baltimore Harbor on Sept. 13-14, 1814.

Fort McHenry began 1776 during the Revolutionary War. The people of Baltimore wanted to build a fort for protection because they feared an attack by the British. The five-point fort was constructed quickly of earthen mounds. It was originally called Fort Whetstone because of its location on Whetstone Point.

The fort was renamed when politician James McHenry raised funds for improvements to the fort in the late 1700s.

The British and its 19 ships opened fire on Fort McHenry and the 1,000 troops early on Sept. 13 and struck the fort with Congreve rockets from Erebus and heavy mortar shells.

The ships were under return fire from Major George Armistead's guns. Originally out of range of the guns, the ships drew closer, only to return to their original positions.

The British attempted to move around the fort after dark but did so to no avail.

Within 25 hours, including during a battering storm, the British had fired between 1,500 and 1,800 rounds at the fort.

Yet, the fort stood.

At daybreak, Armistead ordered the small storm flag flying over the fort lowered and replaced with the standard flag measuring 42 feet by 30 feet.

Sewn by local seamstress Mary Pickersgill, the flag was clearly visible to all of the ships in the river.

That sight signaled the end of the battle and that Armistead's troops had prevailed.

A witness to the battle, Francis Scott Key, who had gone to meet with the British to obtain the release of Dr. William Beanes, wrote what was originally called "The Defence of Fort McHenry."

It eventually became known as the Star-Spangled Banner and was made our National Anthem in 1931.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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