Every year at Flag Day time I recall the Flag Days of years past in Southern Ohio. I forget how it happened, but somewhere in the process of one of those Flag Days I was asked, as a local pastor, to help a fellow named Norman DeHaas dedicate a flagpole he was sponsoring to be erected at a local park.
Now, Norm was getting older when I met him and he could never pronounce my name correctly, but around this time of the year he would always call and we would meet and plan together a service that would simply honor the flag of the United States of America and the Lord in a very simple, yet significant way.
Over the years, we served together to dedicate flagpoles at the hospital, the library, Liberty Park, a couple of churches, and various other places in the county.
Norm, wh passed away in 2003, had a passion for the flag and wanted everyone to share in that same energy, commitment and dedication. And in his own inimitable way, Norm could inspire the best of us to help him fulfill that passion and encouraged others to do the same.
In case you had not noticed, this week we celebrated Flag Day. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States of America by resolution of the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. It was resolved on that day “that the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes alternate red and white; that the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”
In 1885, a school teacher named Bernard J. Cigrand encouraged his students to reflect on the real meaning and majesty of this symbol. In Waubeka, Wisconsin, 19-year old Cigrand placed a 10-inch 38-star flag in an inkwell on his desk at the front of his one-room classroom. He prompted his students to write an essay about what the flag meant to them, referring to that day, June 14, as the flag’s birthday. From that day on, Cigrand dedicated himself to inspiring not only his students but all Americans to reflect on the grand significance of “Old Glory.”
A little over three decades later in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson declared June 14 as National Flag Day. President Wilson proclaimed, “The flag has vindicated its right to be honored by all nations of the world and feared by none who do righteousness.” On Aug. 3, 1949, President Truman signed an Act of Congress recognizing the holiday of Flag Day and encouraging Americans to celebrate it.
On June 14, 2004, the 108th U.S. Congress unanimously voted on H.R. 662 declaring Flag Day originated in Waubeka, Ozaukee County, Wisconsin.
Now, Stony Hill School is a historical site and is located in Waubeka, Wisconsin, and the National Flag Day Foundation (of which Cigrand was once president) is still actively pursuing Cigrand’s mission. A yearly celebration of Flag Day occurs on the second Sunday in June, and patriots of not only Waubeka, Wisconsin but from across the Union gather to celebrate where Flag Day was founded.
The flag of the United States of America is different now than it was back in 1777. But it is still a vibrant symbol of the freedoms we observe and the price paid by so many to insure those freedoms remain intact.
But a flag as a symbol is not unique. Other symbols have been made or built to commemorate a variety of events or celebrations. For example, when Joshua led the children of Israel across the Jordan River into the Promised Land, he challenged the leaders in Israel to build a monument out of 12 stones and place it on the bank of the river. Then every time anyone came to that place on the riverbank, they would see the stone memorial and remember the price that so many paid in order to get to that point in their walk with God.
In driving through this area of Southern Ohio, every time I drive by one of the flagpoles we dedicated on Flag Days gone by, I think of Flag Days past. I am reminded of Norm DeHaas and his love for the flag of the United States, But even more, I am reminded of the Lord’s faithfulness in providing for our freedoms that we tend to take for granted, freedoms that have been given to us by Almighty God.
Flags and other symbols are designed to demonstrate, as Joshua told the sons of Israel when they had crossed the Jordan River, one thing to all who follow: “that the hand of the Lord is mighty, so that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” – Joshua 4:24.
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro pastor who now resides in Florida. He can be reached at email@example.com.