As a member of the Clinton Township Volunteer Fire Company, I help out on the 9/11 Ride each year, doing whatever needs to be done. The ride actually begins at 6:00 p.m., but our volunteer members are there as early as 7:00 a.m. to set up the barricades, prepare for the vendors, etc. The riders start lining up as early as 8:00 a.m. and will continue to come throughout the day until the sound announces — “Let’s roll!”
The riders come in every size and shape, male and female, young and old, some wearing leather jackets, often covered in patches displaying their particular cause or organization. Just like their attire, it seems that every single one of their bikes are unique. Everyone likes to doll their ride up in one way or another to make it stand out in some way. But despite all the variety and differences in the riders and their bikes, there is one thing that is truly a common denominator, and that is the American flag.
Most have a single flag in the back; others will have two, and sometimes, the backseat person will have the flag in their hand. Most of these flags are modest in size, but there are always a few that have very large flags strapped on their cycle.
There is a reason for this — as much as anything, our national flag is the most important symbol of our country. Even before there was a United States, there was an American flag. On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act that stated: “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation.”
Those colors were not chosen at random, either. Our Founding Fathers wanted to use it to inspire those who were, at that moment, fighting to become a free nation. Red symbolizes hardiness and valor, white symbolizes purity and innocence, and blue represents vigilance, perseverance, and justice.
We have not always been as united as we should be as a nation, yet the flag seems to be one thing we can always rally around. There are several vivid images of this. The raising of the flag on Iwo Jima is arguably one of the most iconic photographs of all time, showing six United States Marines raising the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in February of 1945. It gave the American people tremendous hope because this was the first soil that was actually considered Japan. It symbolized the beginning of the end of a very long and painful struggle.
When our men went to the moon in July of 1969, they took the American flag along with them. The picture of Buzz Aldrin saluting the flag that is waving in front of him captures the essence and pride of one of America’s greatest scientific achievements. Five additional Apollo missions, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17, ended with an astronaut placing a flag on the moon.
And on that fateful day of September 11, 2001, three New York City firefighters raised a flag above the World Trade Center rubble. That flag disappeared shortly afterward and was missing for years. It has since been found and donated to the 9/11 Memorial Museum and has become a powerful symbol of patriotism, survival, and resilience.
Yet, let us never underestimate our present government officials’ ability to muck up the works, even when it comes to something as basic as displaying our flag. In February of this year, a two-star general set down the edict that military personnel in uniform cannot hold a large, horizontal flag during events. Why? Because according to Title 4 of the United States Code, the flag should never touch the ground or be carried flat or horizontally. And this also applies to parachutists from the military who majestically fly the flag as they land it on the field.
Our country is suffering through a tremendously serious deficiency in military recruitment. Yet, a general that obviously has too little to do decides that rather than show patriotism at major sports events with members of the military proudly holding a giant flag on a playing field or dramatically flying in on a parachute, the practice must be abolished because of the “Code.”
In the Stars and Stripes, one person came up with a solution, “If we’re following flag code for the reasoning of this stupidity, the objects used for these events aren’t technically flags; they’re banners.” Appreciate the effort, commenter, but it won’t work. It’s not a banner, or pendant, or placard, or streamer. It is and always will be the Flag of the United States of America; long may she wave.