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June 14, 2013

A grand old flag, indeed

Editor’s note: This editorial was first printed on June 14, 2012. We reprint it again this year in honor of Flag Day. 

You’re a grand old flag,

You’re a high flying flag

And forever in peace may you wave.


What is the American flag that we celebrate every June 14?

It is the words to George M. Cohan’s 1906 “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” written for his Broadway show: “George Washington Jr.” and immortalized in the 1942 film “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

It is the legend — even if apocryphal — of Betsy Ross creating the first American flag during the Revolutionary War.


You’re the emblem of

The land I love.

The home of the free and the brave.


What is the American flag?

It is another legend, that of a 95-year-old Barbara Fritchie waving a Union flag defiantly at Confederate General Stonewall Jackson’s troops as they marched triumphantly through Frederick, Md.

John Greenleaf Whittier’s 1864 poem, “Barbara Frietchie,” described the scene this way:

“Shoot, if you must, this old gray head, But spare your country’s flag, she said.”

What is the American flag?

It is the iconic photo of Feb. 23, 1945, by Joe Rosenthal showing five U.S. Marines and a Navy corpsman raising the flag at the top of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima in World War II. It was the second time an American flag was raised on that summit. The first flag-raising inspired the American troops who saw it. The second inspired a nation.


Ev’ry heart beats true

‘neath the Red, White and Blue,

Where there’s never a boast or brag.


What is the American flag?

It is the image of astronaut Buzz Aldrin standing on the moon on July 20, 1969, saluting an American flag. The photo was taken by Neil Armstrong, the first American — the first person — to set foot on the moon.

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