A Brief History of the American Flag
When I was a young Cub Scout around 9-years-old, I used to travel with my Great-Grandmother to what she only ever called “her flag program.” I would do the heavy lifting, toting flags, poles, handouts, her Kodak carousel slide projector, and anything else she needed. We would visit schools, churches, civic groups, and anyone else whoever wanted to see the presentation.
The presentation was created by the Bell Telephone Company on the history of the American Flag. When my Great-Grandmother retired from the phone company after over 50 years of service, she took on the mantle of being the ambassador of this program to share the unique tale of our nation’s banner. She did so proudly until she was no longer physically able, and passed away in 1995.
Several years ago, all of her original materials became lost. Even though the equipment wasn’t around any longer, I still fondly remembered traveling with her from place to place, setting up and tearing down her equipment like a roadie at a concert hall, and being a prop when she needed someone to do something for the audience while she narrated. I didn’t think about it for a long time until one day, while cleaning out a box of old papers, I found something of hers.
“Build Me a Son” by General Douglas MacArthur
In that box was a copy of a hand out she used to have available for the program called “Build Me a Son” by General Douglas MacArthur. I thought all of it was lost. I didn’t even know I still had a copy! As I read it, memories came flooding back. It was a wonderful piece of nostalgia that I was grateful to have. But that last stanza… that was the trigger.
Realizing that the goal of any parent, grandparent or great-grandparent is to want to know they have done the best they could have for their children and grandchildren, and that at the end of things, that they “have not lived in vain.” All those trips around to present this program when I was a kid was a sign. I was in that position for a reason and my Great-Grandmother put me there. I took the discovery of this piece of paper as a call to action.
Over the next year, I endeavored to recreate, as best I could remember, my Great-Grandmother’s flag program. Of course, with modern technology at my fingertips, it was much easier for me than it was for her and the others that helped create it. After much research, late-night tweaking, and writing and re-writing the script, I finally had a modern recreation of the program that my Great-Grandmother would be proud of. I practiced and timed the script, then put it out to the universe. Since then, I’ve presented my version, “Long May It Wave,” over 60 times in the last few years (including four times in one day!) for the same groups my Great-Grandmother used to visit: Scout troops, church groups, civic clubs, and even a TV appearance with our local cable channel. So far, I’ve been able to honor every request to present (locally, of course) and it’s a joy to do so.
In the program, I cover the more famous iterations of the U.S. Flag through the Revolutionary period with stories of the how and why behind each design. I’ve also included some stories around the writing of The Star-Spangled Banner and how it was nicknamed “Old Glory”. Finally, with guidance from an old Air Force Chief Master Sergeant, I’ve included a flag folding ceremony that is sadly no longer used by the DOD, but has a tremendous impact on all who see it.
If you’re local to middle Tennessee, feel free to reach out and see if we can arrange a presentation. If you’re further than that, well, gas is pretty dang expensive these days but perhaps this short video below on YouTube will suffice. I made this in 2020 during the Covid lock downs for work. I’m an amateur historian, so please excuse any errors or omissions. I researched each story to the best of my ability. If I missed something or got something wrong, feel free to send me a message and I will investigate. I hope you enjoy it!
In any case, our American history is something to be celebrated and remembered, and I am proud to offer this small piece to our nation’s celebrated identity. I’m unapologetically American and strongly believe in American exceptionalism. God bless you all, God bless America, and Long May It Wave!