Today is Flag Day. So here is a poem about it, thanks to Kirby Brandhagen, Cavalier, N.D., who sent it to “Neighbors.”
Note that the conclusion refers to the “new president.” When Kirby wrote this poem, Donald Trump was that president.
“A Flag for All Seasons”
I am a United States flag, not just a decoration,
Something to be honored, not just brought out for recreation.
I’ve flown at the top and bottom of the world;
Even on the moon, our astronauts have me, unfurled.
I’ve sailed on ships, sailing across the seven seas
And all the earth’s oceans, and under them as well, you see.
I crossed the Delaware River on a cold Christmas night
With George Washington and his men, the Hessians at Trenton to fight.
Officially I was authorized June 14, 1777, by the Continental Congress.
The first real sign that unity in our country was in progress.
Went from ship to ship with John Paul Jones in a huge sea battle,
From the Bon Homme Richard to board the Serapis, the British to rattle.
Then John Paul flying me officially on the ship, Ranger,
As we sailed revolutionary waters full of danger.
Waved in victory when at Yorktown, General Cornwallis defeated,
Glad that no more revolutionary battles will be repeated.
Flew over Philadelphia during the Constitutional Convention
While the colonies there were trying to become a united nation.
In 1789 I flew for the inauguration of George Washington, our first president,
Where he voluntarily served only two terms, setting a long precedent.
Fought through the wilderness during the Indian wars;
Often sad, that the violence went way too far.
In 1804 Thomas Jefferson made the “Louisiana Purchase;”
Lewis and Clark mapping and exploring it, with courage and finesse.
In 1805 I went after the “Barbary” pirates,
Inspiring the Marine Corps anthem, a tune great.
1812 became almost my last casing
When Great Britain, my country came close to erasing.
In 1814 the British burned my house,
But I was still flying, though somewhere else.
Finished up with them at the “Battle of New Orleans;”
Andy Jackson, later to be president, beating the British war machine.
But the war was over when that battle was fought.
Makes me feel sad, whenever I have that thought.
One good thing coming out of that war:
Francis Scott Key at Fort McHenry wrote for me a few bars.
Flying now mostly peacefully, except intermittent Indian fighting.
Then in 1838, the “Trail of Tears,” was not to me delighting.
I stand for freedom, respect for all mankind;
Sometimes those that waved me let that slip their mind.
Though during these times I flew at full mast,
Some of the injustices, in my heart, a half mast cast.
At full war again in 1846, south of the border
When with Mexico, we had some disorder.
Back to peace now, with western growth so enormous;
But there was an undercurrent running that would grievously harm us.
I was flying over a country that was soon to be divided.
When state’s rights over slavery, much rancor provided.
In 1861 I was ripped in two with secession;
North flying me, South with a new flag creation.
I could see parts of myself, the colors being the same;
But the stripes became bars and “stars and bars” they did it name.
The red in both would be sadly prophetic;
Much blood was to be shed, so very pathetic.
My first battle on land, “Battle of Bull Run,” I had to retreat;
The “stars and bars” my Union troops did defeat.
Then I flew in many battles, my Union, for its life in fear;
Win or lose, it was all American families whose eyes would up, tear.
But then at the little town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania,
My country shed more blood than all the counts of Transylvania.
I won, barely, a turning point, looked like my Union would survive,
Though it would be many years before my nation would truly revive.
Appomattox Court House, 1865, 9th of April, you see,
General Lee to General Grant returned Virginia and the “South” to me.
Once again I would fly all over a united land,
Confederacy falling, having made its last stand.
My president, Abraham Lincoln, now planned reconstruction;
But John Wilkes Booth was to be his destruction.
As I lay draped over the president’s box seat at Ford’s Theater,
Booth shot Lincoln in the back of the head, blood on my folds to splatter.
My president fought for his life until early the next day,
But lost his fight, and the great man passed away.
With his action Booth the “South” did condemn
To punitive reconstruction, causing many a new problem.
Flying now over a fast-growing nation,
Indian wars in the “West,” but no major conflagration.
Rode with General George Armstrong Custer in 1876 to the Little Big Horn,
Where the Sioux won the battle, but out of it, their defeat was born.
Now until 1898 I flew over a nation growing more peaceful;
But when I went underwater with the Maine, it was eventful.
Now to war with Spain I went, eventually destroying their fleet.
Now I was going, the Philippine people to meet.
1899 flying as peace was reached with Spain;
Treaty signed, much new territory I did gain.
During that war, a young Teddy Roosevelt carried me up San Juan Hill,
Setting him on a course that would cause his and my destiny to fulfill.
Spanish-American War, now over, my nation was rapidly disarming,
Though elsewhere in the world, events happening, so alarming.
I flew while President Wilson “kept us out of war.”
The harder he tried to do that, the louder the European cannons did roar.
In 1916 I found myself flying above French soil;
Once again my folds would bleed, to tyranny foil.
People said when this was over it would be the last war.
I hoped so, because suffering and bloodshed I do abhor.
That was not to be, for I got wet, December 7, 1941,
On the Arizona sunk, when war with Japan was begun.
Before the war was over, I would fly over many places.
As by Germany and Japan, I was put through my paces.
One of the proudest and bloodiest places I ever flew,
Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, when that battle was through.
One of the places I was so thankful to fly,
Was on the Missouri, in Tokyo Bay, to with the war on Japan, say goodbye.
Back home, I was flying over a nation trying to make up for lost time,
And in my country, rapid growth, and cash registers to chime.
Also I gave birth to an entire generation
Who would grow up with many of them questioning our nation.
Nothing wrong with that, I’ve not always been right
Though it was the politicians of the time that misdirected my flight,
Sometimes losing sight of my true meaning,
Other times doing some double dealing.
Many in this new generation would take their wrath out on me
Not wanting, or able, my truth to see;
Some of them becoming attackers of my glory,
Trampling, spitting on, then finally burning me for their story,
Losing sight that it was my flying that allowed them this right,
Persecuting me, desecrating me, with self-righteousness and delight.
I always thought that many who did this were duped, or paid,
Attacking me like that, casting doubt on how I was made.
Yes, it is true that sometimes I flew over injustice,
But briefly, and when found true, correcting it at my insistence.
In 1950 I traveled to a country called South Korea,
But would only fly in the United States’ military area;
Another flag, blue and white, in charge of this war,
Or “police action,” as the United Nations ran this war away, far.
Peace to this day not declared there;
Only a “cease fire” between north and south to share.
In the late fifties, I went to another Asian, north and south, place,
Flying in Vietnam for over a decade, Communist aggression to face.
On November 22, 1963, President Kennedy in Dallas, Oswald did slay.
I draped his coffin and flew half mast, for many a dark day.
At home demonstrations for civil rights were reaching critical mass;
Riots in Newark, Watts, Detroit, and other places, not given a pass.
Once again I felt myself being torn, ready to split in two;
It didn’t seem like there was anything to solve it I could do.
Martin Luther King assassinated almost doomed the movement;
But others stepped up, and much government involvement.
It looked as if another Civil War I would see;
This shouldn’t be happening in the land of the free.
Congress passed, in 1965, the Voting Rights Act;
But still against me people continued to react.
At home and on foreign shores, I was being dragged through the street,
With my presence there, some foreign countries did not longer me, entreat.
My desecration usually always ending by my being set on fire;
Guess they didn’t know, I usually rise from a funeral pyre.
In 1969 demonstrations against Vietnam reached their height;
And so did I when I went to the moon on an Apollo flight.
President Nixon had to find a way to end the Vietnam war;
He was succeeding, but then with his powers, went too far.
Most soldiers that had served in Vietnam were by him brought home;
But I waved sadly, for how badly they were treated or left alone to roam.
Those same people who used to burn me in the street
With slander, libel and hatred did returning “vets” meet.
I flew sadly as he resigned the office of president;
He was the first to do so, of all the former residents.
In 1975 I flew in South Vietnam for the final time
When to helicopters, from the tops of buildings, I did climb.
In our bicentennial year, 1976, I was battered, but still waving,
But a decade of unrest, war and self doubt had my strength waning,
Also didn’t help that a new president in ‘77 said I had a “national malaise;’
Might have been better if he waved, and on high, did me raise.
Even at my darkest times, I still flew in the world, all about,
Helping all over where natural disasters had brought pain and doubt;
Usually the first one there, and the last to leave,
Many foreign peoples’ suffering, I helped to relieve,
Not asking for anything of them in return,
Though some of the places I helped did before me spurn.
1980 brought to the president’s office a real “Yankee Doodle Dandy”;
President Reagan nursed my country back to health, and always kept me handy,
Raising our military back to strength, telling a Soviet leader to tear down the Berlin Wall.
His policies of holding me high eventually caused the prison wall to fall.
Then mighty Iraq invaded tiny Kuwait, another American president had me a trip, make;
Iraq, promising the “mother of all battles,” causing the earth to quake.
Not quite that way, and I was home sooner than later.
But then on September 11, 2001, I fell from the World Trade Center.
Since then I’ve been waving constantly in the Middle East fighting terror,
Never forgetting that they had created mankind's worst kind of horror,
Having risen like the Phoenix from smashed bodies, debris, still smoking.
President Bush, the younger, promising we will be for the perpetrators, hard looking.
In 2008 I was proud to wave when an African American became president;
Over a hundred years past the Civil War, President Obama, the first Black White House resident.
He didn’t want to wave me all over the world stage,
Thinking that it would be better, if with it, we did not, so much, engage.
Saying something about “leading from behind,” I didn’t quite understand it.
Good thing that Rosa Parks, at the back of the bus, did not sit.
I can’t lead you, if I am flying behind you.
Without me for direction, what will you do?
Now we have a new president that is waving at the front again,
Trying for America a new direction to begin;
Barely started in office, most of the news media making of him fun;
But I think that for me, he will give me a fair run.
At least now I am waving high at every event,
And against the terrorists, he’s not afraid to vent.
In four years I may fly for a different commander in chief;
I just hope I fly over a nation with much less grief.
I don’t choose the leader for which I fly;
But I like to see all of them at least get a fair try.
If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 701-241-5487 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.