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Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department Memorial at The Circle Spring 2003


A History of Our Flag

Reprint of Editorial By Assemblywoman Rose Marie Heck

"Old Glory," "The Stars and Stripes," "The Star-Spangled Banner." Our flag has been known by many names, but whatever it is called, the sighting never fails to bring a lump in the throat and a swelling in the heart of every true American.

Congress enacted its Flag Resolution of 1777 on June 14 of that year, calling for the establishment of a national banner.

The celebration of a day in honor of our flag traces its beginnings to a New York schoolteacher who believed it was important to foster a strong feeling of patriotism in the hearts and minds of his kindergarten pupils. In 1889, he chose June 14, in honor of the Congressional Flag Resolution of 1777, as a day of ceremony and celebration. Patriotic songs were sung, orations in honor of our flag were given and each child was presented with a small American flag of his or her own.

A day to honor our flag is uniquely American. If Flag Day didn’t already exist, we would surely reinvent it. We Americans love our flag!

Throughout the years, the idea of celebrating Old Glory on June 14 began to spread. Flag Day festivities always have been encouraged by groups of Revolutionary War descendants and others as an important part of every child’s education. Now Flag Day is celebrated by Americans of all ages in parks and school yards around the nation. New Jersey has several connections to the flag. We can claim that it was a New Jersey signer of the Declaration of Independence who designed the flag. Francis Hopkinson, a New Jersey delegate to the Continental Congress is on record as submitting a bill of $2,700 to Congress for "currency designs, design for the Great Seal of the U.S., a treasury seal, a design for the flag."

Although Hopkinson might have designed the flag, George Washington is credited with establishing it as the symbol of national character.

Washington was the first to note: "The white stripes represent the purity and serenity of the nation, while the red stripes represent the blood spilled by Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. The white stars symbolize the purity, liberty and freedom within the nation. There is one for each state in the union. The royal blue field stands for freedom and justice. The 13 stripes remind us of the uniting forever of the separate colonies into one nation.

A former New Jersey governor, Woodrow Wilson, established Flag Day by Presidential Proclamation while serving in the White House in 1916. It was only in 1949 that President Harry Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14 as National Flag Day.

What makes this celebration so uniquely American? Unlike other countries, Americans see their flag as the symbol of their country and all they hold dear.

Other nations pay homage to kings, presidents, prime ministers or religious figureheads. Americans pledge their loyalty to their flag. Millions of schoolchildren recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. In the State House in Trenton, all Assembly members stand united on the chamber floor, face the flag, and recite the same pledge before every voting session.

Our national anthem is in praise of our flag. Our "Star-Spangled Banner" was a real symbol of American independence and defiance despite overwhelming, superior enemy forces attacking Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812. We still honor that very same flag, with its "broad stripes and bright stars," now being carefully restored at the Smithsonian Institute.

Throughout history, at every historic and uniquely American moment, it seems our flag was close at hand: with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders on San Juan Hill; gallantly placed by U.S. Marines on Iwo Jima; flying as a beacon of hope and freedom at the edge of the Berlin Wall at Check Point Charlie; with astronauts saluting it on the surface of the moon. The Stars and Stripes has always represented American ideals of basic freedom for the common man.

On Flag Day, take special pride in our national banner. It is more than a beautiful piece of cloth; it is the fabric of our country, its hopes, its ideals, its past and its future.

It is America. It is our flag.

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Honor Roll      VFW Post 4591      American Legion Post 106

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Color copies are available at Minuteman Press (Boulevard & Franklin).

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