A lot of Americans have no clue as to why the United States celebrates July 4 as a national holiday. Well, here is the short version: On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress, a series of legislative bodies for 13 of Great Britain’s colonies in North America, officially adopted the Declaration of Independence stipulating the colonies’ separation from Great Britain.
The Declaration of Independence was written, with the help of others, by Thomas Jefferson and presented by the Independence Committee to the Congress on July 4. By this action, each colony became an independent and autonomous state.
Almost a year later on June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act stating, “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be made of 13 stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”
There have been changes to the American flag over the years to accommodate the addition of new states such as Hawaii and Alaska.
The American flag means many things to many people. My family lived in a nation, the United Kingdom, where the Union Jack was the flag of the British government. No American flags were evident except at the U.S. Embassy in London, and the many American cemeteries throughout Europe. I thought I had an appropriate appreciation of our flag until its presence was removed from my daily existence. The flag’s absence gave me an uncomfortable feeling.
We lived 100 miles north of London, but my visits to the city were numerous for reasons connected to business. On my visits, I almost always drove by the U.S. Embassy just to see the glorious display of the American flag. My first and foremost thoughts when I observe the flag are of the many flag-draped coffins of brave Americans who have surrendered their lives fighting for our freedom. The final words at a military funeral, “From a grateful nation,” as the folded flag is presented, is heartbreaking.
This nation, the United States, is very grateful. Regardless of the hateful desecration of the American flag by those who have never lived under another flag, patriotism lives in this country’s heartland. Patriotism is evidenced in small cities and towns like Glencoe, Hokes Bluff, Gadsden, Boaz, Albertville, Attalla, Southside and Rainbow City, just to name a very few. All the towns listed are in Alabama ,but patriot enclaves are spread over the heartland of America.
Glencoe has a boulevard of American flags and crosses on U.S. Highway 431 that runs through the heart of this small city. The crosses and flags represent deceased members representing all branches of the military: Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine.
The flags and crosses are presented each patriotic holiday by Veterans of Foreign Wars Crawford Abel Post 1048 led by Larry Wells, post commander. One of the VFW members who helps in the placement of the flags and crosses is Norman Hindman, age 88, veteran of the Korean Conflict. We thank him for his devoted service.
The City of Glencoe is very much involved in the boulevard of flags and the VFW Post 10408 memorial and honor roll monuments situated on the north side of Highway 431. The beautiful marble edifices have engraved on their face, “dedicated to our comrades who served in the armed forces and to those who died so that we might enjoy our freedoms. Lest we forget. Proud to have served.” One granite structure simply says, “All gave some. Some gave all.” This engraving is in recognition of the 13 Glencoe military personnel who have been killed in action.
If you have never seen this memorial, it is worth your time to visit Glencoe and observe this wonderful tribute to the city’s military personnel.
The crosses and flags that line U.S. 431 in Glencoe are beautiful, but what they imply is even more beautiful. The flag represents valor, honor, courage, determination, power and, most of all, security, especially to Americans living or visiting in foreign countries. I know, because I have been there.
On this day of recognizing another anniversary of our young nation’s independence, may God continue to bless the United States.
John F. Floyd is a Gadsden native who graduated from Gadsden High School in 1954. He formerly was director of United Kingdom manufacturing, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., vice president of manufacturing and international operations, General Tire & Rubber Co., and director of manufacturing, Chrysler Corp. He can be reached at email@example.com. The opinions reflected are his own.
This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: John F. Floyd on what the American flag means