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        “A thoughtful mind,” Henry Ward Beecher wrote, “when it sees a nation’s flag, sees not the flag only, but the nation itself - the government, the principles, the truths, the history.  Wherever our flag has streamed abroad, men and women have seen daybreak bursting on their eyes, for the American flag is the symbol of liberty.  Not another flag has had such an errand, carrying everywhere, the world around, such hope for freedom - such glorious tidings. 

“The stars upon our flag are like the morning stars and the stripes like beams of morning light.  At dawn the stars stand first.  As the sun advances, light breaks into streaming lines of color, glowing red and brilliant white - ribbing the horizon.  So, on our flag, stars and beams of light shine out together. 

“Wherever our flag flies, and men and women behold it, they see on it no rampant lion or fierce eagle, but only light, and every fold significant of liberty.  The history of this banner is all of liberty:  Under it rode Washington and his armies; before it Burgoyne laid down his arms.  It waved on the highlands of West Point; it floated over old Fort Montgomery.  It cheered our army, driven from New York and into New Jersey.  It streamed in light over Valley Forge and Morristown.  It crossed the waters rolling with ice at Trenton.  It flew over General Washington while Yorktown surrendered.” 

The men gathered here today - and the fallen comrades who fought at their sides - carried the Stars and Stripes from training camps in the swamps of Louisiana to Great Britain and France and Luxembourg.  To Belgium and Holland and Czechoslovakia.  To Austria and to Germany. 

“The Stars and Stripes have been unfurled around the globe and into space and amid the solitude of every sea.  They have led the brave to victory and to glory.  They have floated over our cradles:  Let it be our prayer that they shall float over our graves.”

- Adapted from the writings of Henry Ward Beecher.  ©2000 by Audra Taft Hendrickson.  All rights reserved.


 I streak across America, its length and breadth -

Running with the West Wind, whirling with the East;

Howling with the North Wind, sighing with the South.

I see America’s flags flying full and proud,

America’s bunting crisp and stiff and straight,

America’s stars spiked deep in a midnight square,

America’s bars lined up like patriots on parade.

Tried and tested, trimmed and true.

The dross tried out, the weak tried out,

The flabby tested and the fearful trimmed,

The true, the tested, trimmed and tried.

White bars and red stripes racing with the Winds -

Flying full and proud – straight across America.

Trued and trimmed and tested, the dross tried out.

The bars lined up like patriots on parade,

The stars spiked deep in their midnight square,

The bunting crisp and stiff and straight,

America’s flags – flying full and proud.  And

I sigh with the South Wind and howl with the North;

I whirl with the East Wind and run with the West.

Across America I streak – its length and breadth.

 ©2000 by Audra Taft Hendrickson.  All rights reserved.