When the voice of the sports announcer booms, “Please rise and remove your headgear for the singing of the national anthem,” we all do without giving it much thought. Maybe we’re distracted by the team we came to watch or perhaps the ever-changing flourishes added by the performer. But if you were to look around, I promise you will see Americans mouthing the words as our flag is presented in its grandeur.
You know the lyrics, the words authored by an incarcerated lawyer 201 years ago—the same stanza that has crossed the lips of our countrymen ever since. Words that ring triumphant and stand for an ideal that we hold in the highest esteem.
The fight that Francis Scott Key witnessed led him to compose a poem that captures a fundamental aspect of what it means to be an American. He wrote about how our nation was willing and able to fight and defend against those who sought to oppress us. His words ring true because we know our country’s notions of freedom are as broad and as bright as the stripes and stars that he witnessed.
I can say as a combat veteran I’ve experienced what Key was so moved by: perilous fighting that failed to bring down our flag. I can speak from personal experience when I say that I now understand that the red glare of rockets and bursting of bombs is truly inspiring, an experience worth writing about.
It can be easy to get swept up in how many different freedoms we enjoy, and how easy it is to live a lifestyle that is star-spangled awesome. What is not easy is remembering that we earned what we have now by fighting for it. Our flag flies high only because it is planted in soil rich with sacrifice. So when the barbecue comes to a close, and the fireworks light up the sky, remember what Key saw, and why he penned what he did.
When the announcer asks you to stand, remember to lift your own voice and proudly hail our great nation. When you do, you impart our values on behalf of those who have given everything to defend them.