Thursday, November 10, 2005

Fielder’s Choice
By Barry Burleson

Our Anthem

Veterans Day should truly bring out a few tears in all of us.

I’ve covered numerous ceremonies over the years on the holiday. All have touched my heart. Such ceremonies are so important for young and old alike – honoring and remembering those who have fought for our country. Our children must develop an understanding of the great price that was paid for our freedoms. And lives continue to be lost in war, even today.

Monday night, I was going through some items in our office/study at home and found a small book entitled “The Star-Spangled Banner - Glorious American Heritage.”

Pam and Emma went on a school trip when Emma was a fourth grader in Laurel. Their tour of the Washington D.C. area included a visit to Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Md. That’s where they got this handbook for school, home and community.

Each Veterans Day ceremony includes our Star-Spangled Banner, and this week makes me appreciate its history and its content even more. It, too, has been known to make my spine tingle a bit and tears form in my eyes.

While being held under guard aboard a small vessel on the Patapsco River, September 12-14, 1814, Francis Scott Key witnessed the 25-hour bombardment of Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor by the British fleet. When dawn came at last and he saw in the distance the beloved flag of his country still flying above the fort, he expressed the pent-up relief and gratitude for the deliverance of the city and country in the hastily written lines of the Star-Spangled Banner.

On their trip, Pam and Emma saw the famous flag, with a hole through it from a shot by the enemy.

When published and set to music, the song evoked in others the same powerful emotions and soon found popular favor. Through the years its popularity grew, and it became “The National Anthem” long before it was officially so designated by Act of Congress in 1931.

There is an important Code for the National Anthem of the United States of America. It states the song should be sung or played on programs and in ceremonies and other situations where its message can be projected effectively. Since the message of the Anthem is carried largely in the test, it is essential that emphasis be placed upon the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner.

Nothing bothers me more than talking, laughing or noise in general during the playing and singing of our National Anthem. The Code says “stand facing the flag, in an attitude of respectful attention.”

There is actually more than one stanza to our National Anthem. If only a single stanza is sung, the first should be used, and that’s commonplace.

It’s likely the only verse most of us know by memory, “O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro’ the perilous fight, o’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming! And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof thro’ the night, that our flag was still there. O say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

Take a look at the other two stanzas. Their words are equally as powerful – even though not regularly sung.

The original Star-Spangled Banner is on display in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. Its fragile woolen fabric is supported by nylon tapes sewn to the back. It is protected from dust by a wash of air moving over the surface, and from color-fading ultra-violet rays by specially filtered lights. The bottom quarter is a reproduction, replacing bits snipped off at one time by souvenir hunters.

We should all pause from our busy lives on Veterans Day – to show respect, for our veterans, for our flag and for our Anthem.

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