Flags in the neighborhood by tom16602 via flickr

“Everywhere I go I see an American flag. I don’t understand that. You hardly ever see a British flag flying anyplace in the UK.”

That from a member of my writers group, a transplanted Brit, in this country now for ten years or so. Sorry to say, it took my aging brain a few hours to compose a response. But now I have and here it is:

We Americans are proud of our flag. It is a symbol of the war our forefathers came together to fight in order to free themselves from the “colonizing” that the English at that time were imposing on countries all around the world. Our ancestors refused to yield; they fought back … and won!

As children we were taught to honor our flag. In the elementary school I attended there was always an American flag at the front of the class room and every morning we stood, put our hands over our hearts and recited together:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands; one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” *

Then as a member of the Campfire Girls I was taught flag etiquette, including how to fold it properly, never to let it touch the ground, and not to fly it in the rain. In short – to treat our flag with respect.

At summer camp we started each day with the ceremonious raising of the flag and closed it solemnly with the lowering of those Stars and Stripes at sunset. Standing in a circle at the foot of the flag pole we sang “God Bless America” or “My Country ’tis of Thee”. Thus the seeds of love for our flag and its meaning were planted in our young hearts; just one of the reasons I fly the flag today.

When I became an adult I married a Marine who fought in the South Pacific toward the end of WWII. He chose to make the Marine Corps his career after attending college and receiving his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant. On bases where we lived, when the main flag was raised or lowered, any Marine in sight stopped, stood at attention, and saluted. It is the symbol of why they serve and what they fight for.

An American flag graces the top of soldiers’ coffins and is folded and then presented reverently to the next-of-kin at their funeral; a sad but proud emblem of their service to the country. I fly a flag to honor my husband’s service as well as the service of all military personnel.

I’m proud that as Americans we have stepped in to stop the aggression of nations like Germany and Japan, North Korea, North Vietnam and others. We don’t go to those places with the goal of flying our flag victoriously over the victim countries but to ensure the freedom of their people to fly their own flag.

Shortly after the horrific events of 9-11, I had occasion to drive from my home in Virginia to Memphis, TN. Hardly a minute passed on that busy interstate that the Stars and Stripes were not visible; in or on cars and trucks, at rest stops, in the distance at homes and businesses in towns large and small. All Americans were flying our flag that day, it seemed.

What was the message we were sending to each other and to the terrorists? I think it was the same thing we said to the British all those years ago – “We’re not yielding, we are together, and we will fight back.”

I hope this brief explanation of why will answer the puzzlement so plain on my British friend’s face when I told her, simply … “I fly the flag.”


*The words “under God”, were added in 1954.


Image: "Flags in the neighborhood" by tom16602 via flickr and used a Creative Commons license.

Gail Kiracofe

Born in Mishawaka, Indiana, Gail has moved around the country a lot and now lives in a retirement community in Virginia. She was a Marine Corps wife and worked for the Girl Scouts in Georgia, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. She takes lots of Life Long Learning classes, and continues to hone her writing skills.