Editor’s Note: The following commentary was written by Jean Vackiner for the October/November 2017 issue of “The Star,” a publication by the Department of Nebraska Legion Auxiliary. It is reprinted here with “The Star’s” permission.
During the War of 1812, a 35-year-old lawyer boarded the flagship of the British Fleet on Chesapeake Bay, hoping to negotiate for the freedom of a doctor who had been arrested. He succeeded in the deal, but the British were unable to let them go as the Americans had learned of an impending attack on the fort in Baltimore. There was a lot of talk in the fort of lowering the flag to prevent it from being a target, but Mayor George Armistead, knowing his fort was a British target, bravely ordered a flag so large the British would have no trouble seeing it from a distance. This was only weeks after the British burned the Capitol, the Treasury and the President’s house in Washington, D.C.
Allowed to return to their vessel, but under the watchful eyes of the British, the night sky turned red around the stars and stripes flying above the fight. The lawyer and his companions paced worriedly through the night as they helplessly watched the barrage of Fort McHenry eight miles away. It was a night of hell for the young Americans, the sacrifices and struggles of freedom still so fresh in their minds, to watch the night sky erupting in walls of flame during the huge scale attack. There was little hope the flag would still be standing by dawn. But on the morning of September 14, 1814, at “the dawn’s early light,” Old Glory remained.
In his joy, the young man penned his thoughts onto an envelope while still on the ship. His brother-in-law distributed it under the title “Defence of Fort McHenry.” The Baltimore Patriot newspaper printed it, and within weeks, the poem appeared across the country, now known as “The Star Spangled Banner” and set to the tune of a popular English song. Francis Scott Key’s expression of pride in his young country was now immortal.
Just 16 years ago, Americans had similar feelings as they watched in fear while the Twin Towers fell, federal buildings burned and the planeload of heroes perished in Pennsylvania. Live, instantaneous information burned our eyes 24 hours a day until we could stand no more. Even with all the technology available, we still don’t have the ability to prevent war. But, a great difference lies in the hearts of the men and women involved in the fight from then and today. The men and women from both sides who sacrificed during the battle for freedom from the British were held to a certain standard of honor. Their desires came from a place of love and allegiance to their country, and a respect for life.
As the country fell into the Civil War, the foundation for the fight began to stem from hatred, that ugly darkness of mankind that destroys families, communities and souls. And from which the soulless media feast upon to distort the thinking of the ill-informed, the ill-educated and those will little moral center.
Ladies, as we pray to vanquish the hate that threatens to tear our country apart today, let us keep the “Star Spangled Banner” close to our hearts to honor the foundation of love and allegiance that made our country great.