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Freedom celebrated on Flag Day

June 14, 2010|By DON AINES

HAGERSTOWN -- One year younger than the nation it symbolizes, Old Glory celebrated its 233rd birthday Monday with a small gathering in University Plaza and a performance by a veteran of the event, 10-year-old Abigail Nigh.

"She gets better every year," Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said after Nigh sang Irving Berlin's "God Bless America" before a group of about 40 participants and spectators at the Flag Day ceremony.

"I think it's four times," Abigail said when asked how many times she has performed at Flag Day. Nigh was one of two young singers at the ceremony. Hope Wolford, a student at Williamsport High School, sang "The Star-Spangled Banner."

"It means freedom to me. It makes me feel we can be a free country and nice to other people," Nigh said when asked about the flag.

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Her sentiment was echoed by George Kendrick of Hagerstown.

"The flag means to me that I'm free. I can do what I please," the 84-year-old veteran said. "I served for the flag. I try to uphold the flag to whatever means I can. I am proud to be an American."

Reading from Ruth Apperson Rous' "I am the Flag," Bruchey said, "I represent these eternal principles: Liberty, justice and humanity."

"I embody American freedom: Freedom of speech, religion, assembly, the press and the sanctity of the home," Bruchey read. "Guard me well, lest your freedom perish from the earth."

"We all live in a world of symbols," said Fred Shinbur, chairman of the Maryland Veterans Commission, whether it be the Nike "swoosh" or a Denver Broncos logo. The one symbol that ties all Americans together, he said, is the flag.

"It is equally a symbol of our duties" to the nation, Shinbur said.

The flag means something different to everyone, said Rusty Baker, commander of AMVETS Post 10, commander of AMVETS Department of Maryland and president of the Washington County Club Association.

"We can each find individual meanings" under one banner, Baker said. "We can come together to create something beautiful under one flag."

AMVETS Post 10 and Boy Scout Troop 2 provided the honor guard for the event.

School is out across most of the United States, but the Flag Day observances that took place across the nation Monday began as an essay assignment in a one-room schoolhouse in Wisconsin, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., wrote in a letter read by her Western Maryland representative, Julianna Albowicz. In 1885, schoolteacher Bernard John Cigrand asked students at his school to write essays about what the flag meant to them, Mikulski wrote.

"Resolved, That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation," was the resolution adopted by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777, according to the website of Friends of the American Revolution. Francis Hopkinson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, is credited by many with designing that first banner, according to usflag.org.

In 1780, Hopkinson asked to be paid a "Quarter Cask of Public Wine" for his work on the flag and other matters, but payment was denied when a congressional committee concluded he was not the sole designer and that he was drawing a salary as a congressman for New Jersey, according to usflag.org.

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