REP. WILLS: Star Spangled Banner Yet Waves

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Have you ever wondered about our national anthem and how it came to be?  What does it matter anyway, its just a song or its just a flag, right?  In today’s era where we have rioting; people offended by the flag, anthem, founding fathers, statues, and God knows what else, I thought I would look at unity. 

You see, the Star-Spangled Banner was written during the war of 1812 by Francis Scott Key after he witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships.  Key was sent to the Admiral of a British fleet who had prisoners of war within the flag ship of the fleet and he was to bargain for their release.  You see, back then they typically did a prisoner exchange occasionally as it was the honorable thing to do. 

Key, boarded the ship and negotiated with the British leaders and secured the prisoner swap and then the Admiral said it won’t matter anyway because tonight we start the bombardment of Fort McHenry and we have the entire fleet here.  Once we have Fort McHenry, the United States cannot stand, and the British Empire will be cut the United States apart.  The Admiral continued to explain that the Fort had been told that once the bombardment began, they simply had to lower the flag to surrender and the bombardment would stop. 

Soon after that the bombardment started and Key watched the power that was brought to bear, with bombs bursting in the air and the rockets red glare.  Throughout the night Fort McHenry was pounded and the flag stood tall.  At some point in the night all the naval guns were directed at the flag because it was just not being lowered. 

When the sun came up, the flag was still there.  It wasn’t standing straight and it was shredded but Key was amazed that it was still there.  The British stopped the bombardment released the prisoners and left.  Key entered Fort McHenry amazed that it withstood the tremendous pounding.  When he saw the flagpole, it was crooked, patched up, and bloodied. 

He asked how that flag could have possibly withstood the onslaught and was told that when men saw the flag falter they rushed to prop it up.  They held it up to their own demise one after another.  They knew the 15 stared and 15 striped flag was the target of the British bombardment but they raced to it because they knew it was the symbol of their freedom and victory. 

These men, gave everything and then some to ensure the Fort was held by Americans and they defeated the British, the greatest military force on the planet at the time and secured a tremendous moral victory that eventually carried on to lead to neither side winning or losing this battle. 

What is important is these men, at the time of the battle, were Americans.  They weren’t one nationality or another.  Some were recent immigrants to the United States, African Americans served in Fort McHenry as African Americans served on both sides of that war.  These men had the true American Values, tenacity and grit and the sense of being one people.  They didn’t care where one another were from or what issues got someone to where they were.  They cared about holding that Fort and keeping the British out of the newly formed country; to preserve their country.  

Just like these Soldiers who fought the British, we Iowans, we Americans; men, women, children, are one people and one country.  Instead of dividing into groups and segments of our population we need to come together and become unified.  You see, we need more working together as one people to solve our problems than tearing down things to create more problems.  That is the Iowa I know and the America that I love.   

John Wills

Author: John Wills