In just a few short days, nine to be exact, my daughter will turn five. It’s hard to believe how time flies! We are looking forward to a Sleeping Beauty-themed party with decorations fit for a princess, a cake that I am going to construct (wish me luck), a few gifts, and some sprinkler fun, weather permitting. It will be socially distanced, and that’s okay for us. Our daughter isn’t particularly into large groups.
When the excitement of the day is all over, I will continue a tradition that I’ve been doing each year since her birth. On that day I will have written her a letter. I will tuck it safely away into her keepsake box to open when she’s older. I usually write about how much she’s grown, favorite memories from the year, and simply reiterate how much we love her. This year, I’ll write about those same things, but I also want to write about liberty, and our American flag. You see, June 14 is not only my daughter’s birthday, but coincidentally, it’s also Flag Day. To me, this is the perfect year to write about our flag’s symbolism. These recent, challenging months in the midst of COVID-19 have strengthened my patriotic heart, and deepened my appreciation for our country. And while Flag Day is often an overlooked holiday, I want to share with my daughter how important it is.
Flag Day is a time to honor our flag and all that it stands for. Since 1916, our country has officially recognized June 14 as Flag Day because that was the day our Second Continental Congress passed a law describing what our flag would look like. Initially, 13 stripes and 13 stars adorned the flag, each representing one of the original 13 colonies. As America grew, so did our flag, eventually coming down to the last two stars, added in 1950. Fun fact alert: Did you know that it was an Ohio teenager who fit the final two stars on the flag, perfectly spaced in the pattern we see today? His final design was approved by the president and proudly hung for the first time on July 4, 1960! Another fun fact is that the idea for Flag Day actually began way back in 1885, in the mind of…you guessed it…a teacher.
Now it’s my turn to teach. My daughter may only be turning five, but I want to plant those seeds. I want her to know the rich history of our American flag, what it stands for, and to remember the lives lost for our freedoms. Singing happy birthday is fun, but growing up understanding why we sing the Star Spangled Banner is necessary. We honor our country and flag every time we sing our national anthem. Whether it be in the shower (who doesn’t try to hit that high note once in a while?) or at the beginning of any sporting event, we remember. Hats off, hands big and small over our hearts, there is nothing more patriotic and no better tribute to our American flag than to sing that song with pride. So yes, amidst the princess party decorations, so too, will hang our flag. We will make time to celebrate two things at once. In fact, my family, like many others, waves the American flag outside our home daily. If you come to the courthouse or even our office, you will see the flag. It’s an important symbol that represents all of us, and binds us together as Americans.
My daughter’s birthday will always be special, but the fact that it falls on Flag Day, adds particular significance. June 14 will be a busy day for my family. We will proudly celebrate a 5-year birthday and our American flag. I don’t know what your plans are that day, but I invite you to join me in pausing to remember our flag, to reflect on the liberty it stands for, on the lives lost protecting it, and to remember all who continue to fight for what it represents. Let us not take for granted how we have come to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Melissa A. Schiffel is Delaware County prosecutor.