BALTIMORE, Md. (AFNS) --
Fort Mc Henry, Maryland, likes Flag Day so much, they’re celebrating America’s most recognizable symbol of patriotism twice this year—in June and in September.
Annually, June 14th commemorates the day in 1777 when the Continental Congress replaced the symbol of the Grand Union flag with the stars and stripes—13 stars on a blue background, to symbolize “a new constellation,” and alternating red and white stripes to symbolize the “martyr’s blood and pure spirit,” of those who fought during the Revolution. In the past, Flag Day and Fort McHenry were nearly synonymous.
This year, the Baltimore Harbor landmark will be celebrating Flag Day with an afternoon of fife-and-drum performances, a special color guard, and a program sponsored by the American Flag Foundation, as they celebrate an afternoon honoring the adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the United States’ national flag, quite possibly the most recognizable national colors anywhere.
It would be the War of 1812, the two-and-a-half-year military conflict between the United States and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, that would best be known for two outcomes: It would resolve many issues which remained from the Revolutionary War (although it would change no boundaries), and it would set the stage for Francis Scott Key, a young lawyer, to write the poem “The Defence of Fort M’Henry” in September 1814 as he witnessed the bombardment—“the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air”—from the HMS Surprise, a truce ship in the Patapsco River, where he was being held captive watching the Battle of Fort McHenry.
The poem was first published in The American, a Baltimore newspaper, and the melody was borrowed from the “The Anacreontic Song” from an amateur musicians gentlemen’s social club in London. Although many find the one-and-a-half-octave range difficult to sing, the song with various lyrics, was already popular in the United States. With Key's poem set to the tune and renamed "The Star-Spangled Banner," it would soon become a well-known American patriotic song. Although the poem has four stanzas, only the first is commonly sung.
Old Glory was officially recognized in 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation establishing June 14 as Flag Day. As a symbol of our nation, there are a few rules for the use and display of the flag that have become custom over the years.
The flag should be flown from sunrise to sunset, but if it is displayed at night, it needs to be constantly illuminated. The flag should never be flown in inclement weather and should only be flown upside down during times of distress. And during its display, it should be raised quickly and lowered ceremoniously, and no other flag should fly above it.
(Courtesy Martha Lockwood, Air Force News Service, and Senior Airman Jesse Lopez, 97th Air Mobility Wing, Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma.)