Today, I'm thinking back to January, when our little family took a trip to Washington, D.C. and saw the flag that started it all... The Star Spangled Banner.
I'm not sure what I was expecting when I went to see the flag. I knew it was the one that inspired Francis Scott Key to write what is now our national anthem, the one that flew in Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812.
What I didn't know was that just seeing the flag would be enough to bring tears to my eyes. I somehow felt a connection to all the brave Soldiers who fought that day in 1814 while this flag waved nearby. Looking at this American flag, I came to a deeper understanding of what our flag represents and it took on a more personal meaning for me than it ever had before.
The Star Spangled Banner is in the National Museum of American History, one of the Smithsonian Institution Museums on the Mall. To give you an idea of the scale each star on the flag measures approximately 2 feet (0.6 meters) across.
Just down the street from the museum is another national symbol, the Washington Monument. We found it refreshingly desolate in the cold morning hours that day.
I realize that people who are not from the United States sometimes see our patriotism as narcissistic. But on the 4th of July, we are thankful for those who have stood up for the principles upon which our country was founded. We remember with grateful hearts those who serve and who have served in our military as well as their families. We wave our American flags to remind us that we are united by, if nothing else, our citizenship. We set off fireworks to celebrate and enjoy life, but also to remind us of the "rockets red glare" that inspired the writing of our National Anthem 197 years ago.
Now I'd love to hear from you in the comments. What symbol reminds you most of what we celebrate on July 4th? For those of you who are not from the U.S., what symbol best represents your country's history?