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Remembering the cloth and paper

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- In late May 1776, three men from the continental Congress, including Gen. George Washington, visited a struggling upholsterer and asked her to sew a flag - Mrs. Betsy Ross took their request to heart. On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress declared the flag of the United States would have thirteen stripes, alternating red and white, and the union would have thirteen white stars in a blue field representing a "new constellation."

On Sept. 13, 1814, a 35-year-old poet-lawyer wrote the following words on the back of an envelope: "oh say can you see, by the dawn's early light...". Francis Scott Key penned these lines nearly 200 years ago during the British attack on Fort McHenry, and they are held in high regard to this day.

Why the history lesson? Because some of us have forgotten; we have become complacent in our patriotism. But the anthem is only words, and the flag is only cloth. So what does it matter if we run back inside the building when the national anthem plays? After all, it's hot outside, and wouldn't you rather stay in the air-conditioned comfort of your office. I'm sure those who died fighting in wars and conflicts to protect our freedoms would have preferred that also. How has such a simple act become a burden to so many?

The Stars and Stripes and the National Anthem are so much more than cloth and paper. They are the underlying spirit of the people of the United States of America, and the men and women in uniform - the guardians of that sprit. Those of us who wear the uniform have made the decision to protect all that is embodied in the anthem and flag. We each have taken an oath to protect and defend at all costs.

We must reach out to our next generation of Airmen, and instill in them the pride and respect we all must have as Americans. Lead by example; teach your families, your neighbors, your friends to respect and honor the flag and anthem. Next time the National Anthem is played, step into the rain, because you can. Feel the cold bite your skin, because you can. Feel the sun's warmth on your face, because you can. And after those three short minutes in the rain, snow, or sun, come inside, because you can. Give thanks to the freedoms that are alive in that cloth and paper, of this, the greatest country in the world - the United States of America.

The following Honors should be rendered to the National Anthem and the flag:

While in uniform - When outdoors, face the music or flag at the first note, stand at attention and render a salute. While indoors, stand at attention.

In civilian attire - Military will face the music or flag; remove their hat, stand at attention and place their right hand over their heart. Civilians may stand quietly with their hands at their sides or place their right hand over their heart.

Note - Vehicles in motion should be brought safely to a halt. Passengers will remain seated and silent in the vehicle. Military persons on a motorcycle (or bicycle) should dismount if practical and salute, otherwise remain seated at position of attention.