On this day in 1914 (then) President Woodrow Wilson officially established today, June 14, as our Nation’s Flag Day. Old Glory’s intricate design had previously survived many alterations; however, today’s 50 white stars on a deep blue cloth, representing our 50 states and 13 alternating red, white and blue stripes, which represent the original thirteen colonies, survived. Today, our flag proudly waves across the nation in front of businesses, schools, parks, and shopping malls and steadfastly symbolizes America.
As you reflect upon what the American Flag means to you today, join our Southwest family as we offer our gratitude to the National Blue and Gold Star Mom’s Association. The National Blue and Gold Star Mom’s Association is a non-profit organization formed by parents whose sons and daughters honorably served (Blue Star) in the United States Armed Forces and the (Gold Star) whose sons and daughters paid the ultimate price and lost their lives, serving our country and protecting our freedoms.
Below is a guest blog from Stacey Holley who is the proud Gold Star Mother of SPC Matthew Holley, Combat Medic – 101st Airborne. Matthew was killed in action on November 15, 2005, while deployed to Taji, Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Stacey also is a veteran of the U.S. Army and the co-author, along with her husband John, of the book Medals, Flags and Memories, the true story of “The Holley Provision,” a law that ensures the honorable and dignified welcome home of America’s Fallen Heroes to their hometowns.
Strength and Honor in the Folded Flag by Stacey Holley
As I sat to reflect and contemplate the meaning of Flag Day, I couldn’t help to consider the strength, honor, courage, and grace carried in the colors of our flag of the United States of America. Some refer to it as the Stars and Stripes; the Red, White and Blue; or, more lovingly, as Old Glory. We’ve gazed upon it as we utter the words of the Pledge of Allegiance or stand in reverence to the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. As the symbol of our colors unfurl there’s wonderment for many, and yet, for many others across our great land, there is a supreme understanding of the ultimate sacrifice our flag symbolizes. Those I speak of represent America’s Gold Star families, and the symbolism I refer to is in the presentation of the folded flag.
For over ten years our nation has been at war and during the conflicts that have been fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan, nearly 7,000 members of our Armed Forces have given the ultimate sacrifice. In each case, during the military memorial service, a family member is presented with our nation’s colors. The presentation is given with the utmost respect and care. The colors are folded crisply thirteen times, each fold symbolizing the honor due the family of an American Fallen Hero. On the final fold the stars are uppermost, giving honor to our national motto, “In God we Trust.” Once the final fold is complete there is a dignified transfer from the honor guard to the Officer of Ceremony. The Officer solemnly approaches the family, goes down on bended knee, presents the flag with the straight edge forward, and offers condolences; “On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States (service of record) and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”
Reflecting back to the day my husband and I laid our son to rest, I’m reminded of the powerful fourth stanza of our beloved national anthem. A stanza rarely heard, and, yet perhaps, the most meaningful to those who have lost a loved one defending our nation’s freedoms:
“Oh! Thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is Our Trust.”
And the Star – Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”
This Flag Day please take a moment to gaze upon with reverence and honor our national symbol, giving thanks to the brave men and women who have chosen service over self and given their tomorrows for our today.