Field of Flags 2021 Speech at the Harold D. Fayette School
“What is America to me?
A name, a map or a Flag I see,
A certain word democracy,
What is America to me?”
These words come from the beginning of the song The House I Live In, which was written in 1943 with lyrics by Abel Meeropol and music by Earl Robinson. This became a patriotic anthem during World War II and a favorite song of Frank Sinatra.
On June 14, 1777 Continental Congress “Resolved, that the Flag of the Thirteen United States shall be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”
The 50 five pointed stars on the current national flag of the United States of America (or the American flag) represent the 50 states and the 13 stripes represent the thirteen British colonies that rebelled against the British monarchy and became the first states in the union.
During the War of 1812, Fort McHenry was made ready to defend Baltimore. The Fort’s commanding officer, Major George Armistead desired “to have a flag so large that the British would have no difficulty in seeing it from a distance.” In 1813 he ordered a garrison flag (42 feet by 30 feet) and a smaller storm flag (25 feet by 17 feet) for the Fort. At that time it was the practice to add one star and stripe for each new state which joined the union. In 1814, the United States flag had 15 stars and 15 stripes.
On a rainy September 13, 1814, British warships sent a downpour of rockets and shells for 25 hours onto Fort McHenry, which became known as the Battle of Baltimore. Seeing the flag still flying over Fort McHenry on the morning of September 14, 1814, Francis Scott Key was inspired to write a poem which was later set to music and in 1931 became America’s national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner.”
During weekends in May at the North Merrick BP gas station and in September at the Merrick Street Fair (pre-Covid), members of the Merrick American Legion Post 1282 would give out small American Flags to adults and children. I would ask them simple questions about The American Flag such as: how many stars does it have; how many stripes; how many red stripes; etc. Most elementary school children knew the correct answers, but many of the middle and high school children didn’t. Therefore I decided to start with some important facts about our American Flag and how it got one of its nicknames, “The Star Spangled Banner.” Other nicknames include “Stars and Stripes” and “Old Glory.”
World War II united our nation. Men from all walks of life enlisted or were drafted into military service where they learned to work together to defend our freedoms. From the plain states of Middle America, farmers who had never seen an ocean were enticed to join the Merchant Marine to man the Liberty ships that delivered the troops and supplies to foreign shores. Women left their homes to fill the positions in the factories to manufacture everything from mess kits and canteens to tanks and airplanes.
After World War II and the Korean War, patriotism remained strong. On Memorial Day there were two parades in the Merricks. One run by the Merrick Fire Department which began at Levy Lakeside School marching to the Merrick Middle School, stopping along Merrick Avenue to lay wreaths at various veterans monuments. The parade run by the North Merrick Fire Department began at Old Mill Road at Merrick Avenue, marching to the Merrick Middle School, stopping at the Camp Avenue School for wreath laying ceremony. Both parades would hold a combined ceremony at the Merrick Avenue Middle School. Besides the fire departments members, marchers included school bands, veterans, elected officials, scouts, religious, community, sports and fraternal organizations to list a few. Families and friends would line Merrick Avenue to watch the parade. And when each American Flag passed by, men and boys would remove their hats, and everyone would place their hand over their heart.
Standing for the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem while removing your hat and putting your hand over your heart was an act practiced by everyone because it made us feel proud and it meant respect to our country’s flag. No matter whether you were rich or poor, no matter your race or religion, everyone would unite as one, when it comes to our Country’s Flag and our great nation. Today, this is no longer true.
Now more than ever, no matter what are differences are or our political affiliations, we are all Americans and must work together for the good of our nation to show the world that we are united and strong. The liberties which we have been given by our forefathers are being stretched more than ever before. Our American Flag has been coming under attack in recent years, which is a dangerous way for Americans to protest and think. From the Revolutionary War through today, American soldiers have shed their blood for what our flag stands for, and it should NEVER be disgraced in any manner, at any place, or at any time.
The future of our Republic and Americanism lies in the hands of our youth. We must heed history and all that it teaches! We must instill in them the ideals of family, country and decency which have been handed down through the generations so that our country will continue to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. We must always remember that we are One Nation under GOD, with Liberty and Justice for ALL!
In honor of our veterans past and present; in memory of those lost in the pandemic; and in tribute to all hospital and essential workers, the members of Merrick Post 1282, American Legion and I would like to thank ALL the employees of the North Merrick Union Free School District, the students and their families, and the members of our community who made the 2021 Field of Flags such a GREAT VISUAL DISPLAY of our community’s AMERICAN SPIRIT and PATRIOTISM!
For God and Country,
Robert Dishman, Commander, Merrick Post No. 1282
Note 1: This speech was written by American Legion, Merrick Post No. 1282, Commander Robert E. Dishman and Post Chaplain James W. O’Neal and was then sent to the Harold D. Fayette School to be read at the Field of Flags Ceremony 2021.
Note 2: Merrick Post # 1282, American Legion, purchased 3 American Flags and 1 POW/MIA Flag for the Field of Flags 2021. Here is the breakdown:
AMERICAN FLAGS in honor of: Veterans Past and Present, All Those Lost in the Pandemic and Hospital and Essential Workers.
POW/MIA Flag in honor and memory of: All Those Veterans Who Never Returned.