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The Stars and Stripes forever!

  • Published
  • By Col. Mike Hornitschek
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing commander
There is nothing makes me more proud than to be able to render a salute to our nation's flag as we sound retreat each day at 5 p.m. It is a unique opportunity for those of us who live and work on military installations as it signals the close of another day spent in the service of our fellow Americans.

When the music sounds, I think of the more than 500 Team Scott personnel who are scattered across the globe participating in multiple operations defending freedom as they provide critical support to the fight. Our Airmen are training the new Iraqi Air Force in tower operations, providing law and order in Kabul, conducting flying operations in Kandahar, and continuing herculean response efforts for multiple natural disasters from Japanese earthquakes to Missouri tornados. The flag, which ripples gracefully in the breeze, signals to all within sight that help is never far away.

During my first assignment to Scott AFB in 2000-2003, I remember looking up at our prominently displayed flag and experiencing a rush of emotion as our country united together after the Sept. 11 attacks I had just witnessed. Most recently, observing the thousands of flags on display for a fallen service member as he returned home has a special place in my heart. The flag is an iconic symbol our communities rally around, in support of the families who have lost a husband, mother, brother, or daughter. Because of that, the flag takes on a deeper meaning for me and makes me proud to live in this great land.

The music of our national anthem makes me reflect on our early patriots, especially the man who composed our anthem in 1814. He observed the flag still aloft at Fort McHenry after 18 hours of battle while aboard a British war ship as a prisoner. He kept looking to see if our flag was still there because he could only see it lit by the heavy bombardment during the night. Once dawn broke and the smoke began to clear did Francis Scott Key declare, "O, say! Can you see, by the dawn's early light ..."

The flag prompted this glorious tribute, which in part says:
Oh! Thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n 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!

Reverence for our flag comes from understanding the price in spilt blood that has been paid from pre-Revolutionary War times to now in not only preserving us as a nation, but in the valiant efforts to rescue those who also pursue freedom . Reverence and pride is shown by displaying the flag proudly and properly.

Displaying our flag properly is a responsibility of each citizen and one we get to showcase for our upcoming Flag Day, which is celebrated on June 14. It is a day in which we recognize those first Flag Day celebrations held in Boston and New York.
Truly our flag is a symbol of hope as well as a symbol of the resolve of a free people. We honor our flag by our actions each day ... in how we serve our country and how we treat our family and friends. We honor our flag as we each become examples to the world on how a free society with an inspired Constitution can literally change the world and "make it a better place."

Indeed the "Stars and Stripes" will always reign supreme because it is recognized around the world as a banner of freedom, unlike any other country's flag. In John Philip Sousa's own words:
Other nations may deem their flags the best
And cheer them with fervid elation,
But the flag of the North and South and West
Is the flag of flags, the flag of Freedom's nation.
Indeed, may the Stars and Stripes wave with honor ... forever.