June 14 is Flag Day, the day in 1777 on which the Continental Congress adopted the first stars and stripes as the official flag for the new nation.

The flag as we know it today came into official being by an act of the 15th Congress in 1818.

Aside from knowing that the 50 stars represent 50 states, not many of us realize that each of the segments of the flag has special meaning in heraldry.

The red denotes hardiness and valor. The red means the suffering at Valley Forge. The courage of those daring pioneers who braved harsh winters and blazing summers as well as hostile Indians to cross vast mountain ranges to settle and open the West for future Americans.

The white represents purity and innocence. Our goals have remained constant -- justice, equality and the pursuit of happiness.

The 13 alternating red and white stripes represent the original 13 colonies. The colonies, where people fled to escape religious and social persecution in Europe and search for freedom and peace.

The block of blue, blazing with its 50 stars, represents the unionof the states.

Old Glory has flown over battlefields in time of war, and it waves gently from courthouses and schools across the United States. It waves over our embassies in foreign lands as a symbol ofAmerican presence and diplomatic relations.

It was erected on thesurface of the moon by our astronauts in 1969 and is worn proudly onthe patches of the members of our armed forces and local police departments.

Most of us see Old Glory every day somewhere in Carroll County. And many of us belong to service or fraternal organizations where the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance is part of our regularprogram.

We repeat the words from memory as we have done a thousand times before since grade school, but do we really give serious thought to the words we are saying?

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America

And to the republic for which it stands,

One nation, under God, indivisible,

With liberty and justice for all.

I dedicate all that I have and all that I am to the country of my birth, and to the symbol of this great nation of 50 sovereign states working together for the good of all her peoples. A nation where religious freedom is guaranteed by the Constitution. Where the right to believe or not to believe is guaranteed to all people.

The people of this nation are incapable of being divided. We may disagree among ourselves, but like a family we close ranks when the attack comes from without. We are guaranteed the right to live our lives in freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

So the next time you say the Pledge of Allegiance, think about the words and what they truly mean.

Fred Slaughter and William Law are serving as coordinators ofthe Elks Flag Day ceremony on 2 p.m. Sunday at the Westminster Elks Lodge No. 2277.

The guest speaker this year will be Circuit Court Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr., a former Marine who serves as a colonel inthe Maryland National Guard.

"The Elks have been celebrating FlagDay since 1908, when the Grand Lodge made the the observance mandatory," said Slaughter.

It was not until 1916 that the president madethe first Flag Day proclamation and not until 1949

that PresidentTruman signed into law the designation of June 14 as Flag Day, he said.

"Patriotism and love of country are two of the cornerstones ofour organization," Slaughter said.

Law said that "anyone who has an American flag that is tattered and worn may bring the flag to the lodge on June 9 for retirement.

Carroll American Legion Post No. 31 in Westminster is assisting the Elks Lodge that day by holding a Flag Retirement Ceremony.

"I hope that many Carroll County citizens will join us next Sunday as we proudly show our love for our flag andour country," Law said.

I join Law and Slaughter in that hope. Patriotism and love of country are essential to the survival of the United States.

It is essential that the patriotic spirit that has swept this country since Desert Storm be kept alive. Let us in Carroll County be a moving force in this endeavor.

Keep the flag of our nation flying proudly, not just on Flag Day, but every day.

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