Our National Anthem

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- One afternoon, I was enjoying watching my four-year-old daughter at the playground near my house.

She suddenly came running over to me and said, "Daddy, daddy, the song that you have to stand up to and put your hand over your heart is playing."

She had heard the National Anthem played at the end of the duty day on base. I stood with her listening to the National Anthem beaming with pride as she stood up to honor the flag.

How many times have you seen people line up inside the door or run into a building at 4:30 p.m. to avoid standing or saluting the flag? What do you think of when you hear the Star Spangled Banner at the opening of a ceremony, at a luncheon or at the end of the day retreat? When I hear the anthem, I think about what it means to serve our country and the flag that represents it. I think about the number of people who have made the ultimate sacrifice guarding her and protecting her.

When I was stationed at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, I met an Explosive Ordinance Technician, Master Sgt. Brad Clemons. The last time I talked with Sgt. Clemons, he was getting ready for a one year deployment to Iraq. Even though the deployment meant he would be away from his family, he was excited about serving his country. I was told a couple of months later he was killed in Iraq while investigating an improvised explosive device; he was doing the job he loved. I'm sure that if I could talk with him again, he would probably say that one of his regrets is not being able to serve his country and the flag it represents any more.

The stars and stripes is the symbol of our country and what it stands for. People around the world recognize it and the freedom that it represents. Many nations realize that seeing our flag in their time of need is a symbol that we're there to help and do everything we can to see them through their misfortune; be it earthquake victims in Haiti or Iraqi citizens. We should take the time every day when we hear our National Anthem to honor our flag. By doing so, we are honoring our country and everything that it stands for.

The Star Spangled Banner was originally written during the War of 1812 as our newly formed American nation fought to preserve our hard won independence from Britain. The original lyrics come from "Defense of Fort McHenry", a poem written in 1814 by the 35-year-old amateur poet Francis Scott Key after witnessing the Battle of Fort McHenry and the bombardment of the British Royal Navy ships in the Chesapeake Bay. Mr. Key was being held captive on a British ship and didn't know the outcome of the battle that had raged on through the night until the next morning. He was so inspired by the American victory and the sight of the large American flag triumphantly flying over the fort the morning that he started writing the poem. The flag he saw, with its 15 stars and 15 stripes, came to be known as the Star Spangled Banner Flag. Later, the poem would be set to the tune of a popular British drinking song, "To Anacreon in Heaven", and renamed "The Star Spangled Banner".

"The Star Spangled Banner" was recognized for official use in 1889 by the Navy and later by the President in 1916. Then on March 3, 1931, President Herbert Hoover signed a law making "The Star Spangled Banner" our National Anthem.

The next time you hear our National Anthem, don't run for the building or become irritated thinking it's going to keep you from where you're going. Think about all of the people who have worked hard and even paid the ultimate sacrifice to give us that right. Spend a minute to honor the flag and what it represents for our country, to our forefathers and to you.