Old Glory

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Michael Klintworth
  • 509th Operations Support Squadron
To many individuals the flag of the United States of America is a symbol -- one of liberty, freedom, strength and unity. It motivates and inspires the citizens of this country and serves as an enduring beacon of hope for those on the outside looking in.

To others it's even more important than that. For some it invokes tears at mere sight and feelings so powerful that words cannot describe ... memories tied and bound to its very cloth.

Have you ever considered our flag beyond its physical dimensions? Seen through its fabric and observed its nature as the embodiment of our truths and values? What does the American flag mean to you? What thoughts run through your mind as you see it raised during reveille, as you observe it hoisted and waving in the wind, or as you pay respect to it during a retreat ceremony? Are you proud of our nation's symbol?
As I view and pay respect to our American flag I can't help but feel reverence, pride and appreciation for the flag's long history, for you and other American warriors fighting our nations wars both at home and abroad, for the families and American citizens supporting U.S. servicemen and women, and last but certainly not least, for the men and women who've made the ultimate sacrifice in giving their life for this country.

Have you ever wondered from where the American flag originated? The roots of our flag can be traced back to the Revolutionary War. John Paul Jones first hoisted the Grand Union Flag aboard the Continental Navy's man of war Alfred, prior to attacking British vessels in New Providence on Dec. 3, 1775. Use of this flag continued, and on Jan. 1, 1776, while the Continental Army was overtaking the British in Boston, George Washington hoisted the Grand Union Flag at his Prospect Hill base. The flag's acceptance as a national symbol was solidified June 14, 1777, when the Second Continental Congress passed The Flag Act, which stated that the flag would have 13 alternating red and white stripes and a union of 13 stars, white in a blue field, to represent a new constellation. From then until 1960 the American Flag's design, shape and arrangement have changed 27 times to what we see today.

Our current flag consists of 13 stripes, seven red and six white. Each represents one of the original 13 colonies with the stars representing the 50 union states. The red color in the flag symbolizes hardiness and valor, the white denotes purity and innocence, and the blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice. Besides being referred to as the flag of the United States of America, it's also known as "the Stars and Stripes" and "Old Glory." Those words, Old Glory, were first uttered Aug. 10, 1831, by Captain William Driver, a shipmaster from Salem, Mass. While preparing to leave on a voyage aboard the brig Charles Doggett, the ladies of Salem presented him with a 24-star American flag they had made. As he saw it unfurl aboard his vessel, he exclaimed "Old Glory," and the name of our national flag was born. Now let me tell you what it means to me.

For hundreds of years, American men and women have fought for our independence and have served in defense of what our flag represents. Today more than 200,000 Airmen support combatant commanders around the world. Approximately 35,000 Airmen, 640 from Whiteman, are currently risking their lives to win the Global War on Terrorism and defend our values.

In this effort many Airmen have assumed nontraditional roles. Take for example Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq, where Security Forces Airmen perform missions normally conducted by the Army. The 45-person security detachment team there works "outside the wire" on the dangerous roads of Tikrit to develop and stand up an independent Iraqi police force. Let's remember them and the sacrifices they make in saving lives and delivering opportunities of freedom and democracy.

Critical to the success of those and other efforts is the support provided by families, friends and caring Americans. There are numerous individuals, organizations and programs that provide support to deployed service members, but the most important support mechanism to me is the support a family receives while their loved one is deployed. I experienced this first-hand when the basement in my home flooded during a deployment to Iraq. Without hesitation, fellow Airmen responded, cleaned the flooded area and replaced damaged flooring. This selfless and caring behavior provided vital support to my family and ultimately enabled me to remain focused on the mission. This is the support of our service members that I reflect on when I see Old Glory.

Finally, I will always remember the servicemen and women who've paid the ultimate price when I see Old Glory. During World Wars I and II more than 522,000 troops, fellow Americans, lost their lives. That same dedication and sacrifice continues today. As of Nov. 16, the Department of Defense reports 3,864 U.S. military deaths for Operation Iraqi Freedom and 462 casualties for those supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. This idea of laying down one's life for his or her country is no better stated than in our own Airman's Creed; I am "My Nation's Sword and Shield, Its Sentry and Avenger, I defend my country with my life." As you view the American flag and pay your respects may you always remember those who gave all.

All of this is what Old Glory represents to me. So I ask again, "what does the American flag mean to you?"