Flag Day by David Butterfield
Two weeks ago, a group of individuals hung a large 30 X 60-foot flag from the old Thatcher building on Center and Main. The flag draped the front of the historic building, but it seemed to hang over the entire Cache Valley—a community reeling and hurting and, ultimately, healing from the previous tragic days when we learned together that a 5 year old girl, Lizzie Shelley, had gone missing and was later found dead.
I saw on social media several posts of the flag display before I saw it downtown myself. It seemed many in our community were touched and comforted by its appearance. My 13-year old son, Caleb, asked: What does the flag have to do with the death of Elizabeth Shelley?
In 1814, Francis Scott Key looked across the harbor in Baltimore toward Fort McHenry, which had just endured more than 24 hours of continuous bombardment. Inspired to see our flag in the morning’s light, having endured the heavy assault, he penned what would later become our National Anthem—The Star-Spangled Banner!
It wasn’t too long ago that Americans across the country of all color, age, ethnicity, and religion united in response to the attacks of 9/11. We came together during that tragic time in our shared values to support those who had lost loved ones and each other and to reaffirm the things we believe and hold most dear. We put aside political differences. We put aside allegiance to party and even allegiance to our sports teams and we united for something greater. Everywhere that could be seen—physically represented—by people proudly flying the flag from the windows of their apartment buildings, in shops, on the sides of buildings and barns, on their vehicles, and everywhere you can imagine.
Americans of every generation have sacrificed for the ideals of the flag and under that flag marched off to foreign lands throughout the world to defend, not just the homeland, but the ideals our flag represents. Young men stormed beaches in France under this flag. A prisoner of war in Vietnam is tortured and deprived and brought to the edge of death for his allegiance to this flag.
But, of course, it isn’t just the flag. The flag is merely a symbol for our shared values. It is a simple token for something much greater—something difficult to reduce to words. An idea that encompasses within it the value of each citizen and the notion that free people when bound by our shared values are stronger than the evil we may have to confront.
So, to answer my son’s question: the flag flying over our heartbroken but united community has everything to do with the tragedy we shared just a few weeks ago. As ugly and evil and tragic as that was, we saw public servants and volunteers and community groups and businesses unite in the face of that tragedy and together become the good. Because that’s what we do as Americans. Despite evil and tragedy and difficulty, we persist, and we endure, and we overcome. That is the lesson of our flag and the men and women who faithfully defended it.
May God bless each of us with both peace and strength and that we may long find the love, compassion, worth, and courage in ourselves and in each of our fellow Americans that has made this country great!