Letter to the Editor: This Fourth of July, our flag is still there


“O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, … and the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, … that our flag was still there.” Francis Scott Key’s description of the bombardment of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry in 1814 later became our national anthem.

Fireworks and the flag are inexorably linked to our independence and perception in the world.

Folks enjoy the fireworks and festivities of July 4, while veterans endure them. Unless they’ve been exposed to the flash and boom of the real thing, few understand what veterans of all generations live with. Ukrainians, especially their children, are only the most recent witnesses.

What’s being celebrated is our freedom to say, write and do things we believe in and advocate for. The flag is the recognized icon of our nation and the ideals upon which it was founded. While some of these ideals and rights continue to be reinterpreted by each generation, they are guaranteed in writing by our Constitution — which is a constraint on government, not on us.

No other banner, whether political, social, partisan, religious or any other campaign should ever be displayed on equal terms with our flag, especially by the White House. It belongs to all of us and represents the service and lives of the millions who served and fought under it, and especially those who returned covered by it.

Regardless of one’s political, social, ethnic or gender identification, the Stars and Stripes is America’s pride flag. It inspired a divided nation to wrest itself from England in the 18th century, fought to remain one nation in the 19th century and defeated Axis socialists and fascists in the 20th, before rebuilding and returning their nations to democratic leaders. It rescued South Korea from being overrun by the communist North, saved Kuwait and Iraq from Saddam Hussein and, in the 21st century, is helping Ukrainians defend themselves from ruthless invaders and continues to restrain dictators in many parts of the globe.

Diverse heroes from across the centuries have established our place in history. On the third day of the battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, everyone involved in the Southern invasion of the Union knew how critical a victory would be for either side to get the upper hand. Battle flagbearers on each side were crucial to let their troops know where the battle lines were and to stay engaged. The absence of their flag could lead to a retreat in the chaos. Flagbearers were unarmed, slow-moving targets trusted by their men.

When Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee ordered the charge on Union-held Cemetery Hill, flagbearer Joseph H. De Castro came face to face with his rebel counterpart, knocked him out, grabbed his flag and left the battlefield to present it to Gen. Alexander Webb, before returning to the key battle that drove the South out of Pennsylvania. That act later resulted in Cpl. De Castro becoming the first Hispanic Medal of Honor recipient.

The iconic flag-raising at Iwo Jima in 1945 cost three of the six Marines their lives. Ira Hayes, a Native American from Arizona, survived and became a national figure, who later succumbed to alcoholism related to post-traumatic stress disorder.

The heroic all-Black Tuskegee Airmen and their red-tailed P-51 Mustangs protected B-17 crews bombing Germany during the closing days of World War II, saving thousands of lives.

Today, Old Glory flies over 25 military cemeteries in 10 foreign nations as proof that “our flag is still there.”

God bless America and the banner that represents all of us and our ongoing struggle for a better America and world.

Dave Skocik

President, Delaware Veterans Coalition


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