HAGERSTOWN — White stars set upon a field of blue, representing a new constellation in the night sky, lie near 13 stripes of red and white.
On days of peace and joy, it flies high in the sky. In times of grief and loss, it is lowered to half-staff out of respect for the fallen.
And whether it is called Old Glory, the Stars and Stripes or the Star-Spangled Banner, each June 14, Americans honor their flag.
The city of Hagerstown held its annual Flag Day celebration Tuesday at University Plaza.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,” the crowd said with hands over their hearts in salute to the colors raised by members of Boy Scout Troop 2 and AMVETS Post 10.
“It’s the most important thing they (Americans) can have, respect for their flag and their country,” said Jack Rudy of Hagerstown.
In his comments to the crowd, Rusty Baker, commander of AMVETS Post 10, asked each person to consider what the flag means to them.
Rudy said that to him, it means freedom. It means the right to do things that people in other countries are prevented from doing, he said.
Adopted as the national flag by the Second Continental Congress in 1777, Old Glory is often seen as a symbol of freedom.
But if you ask the young people present Tuesday, its meaning is much deeper than sentiments of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The American flag is a symbol of heroism, said Joey Wolfensberger, 13, of Hagerstown. It shows that troops fight so we can live freely, he said.
It flies as a beacon of the honor and bravery of the U.S. Armed Forces, said Dallas Burger, 12, of Hagerstown. It’s also a symbol of the pride we have in those who fight for our country, he said.
But the flag is also a reminder that we all share this land, said Alex Rudy, 9, of Hagerstown. He said the flag reminds him of the unity many bled and died for and that kindness should always triumph.
Shawn Schaefer, 17, of Hagerstown said the flag is simply a symbol of America and all that makes this country unique.
“It makes me think of my country,” said Amelia Rudy, 7, of Hagerstown.
And while some adults might think the younger generation has lost respect for the flag, Amelia said she honors the flag by pledging her allegiance to it.
Shawn and Dallas show it honor by raising it every day, lowering it every night and protecting it from harm, they said.