There were probably no flags flying when Alex and Sophia boarded the Susan B. Howell in the Port of Londonderry. They were surrounded by all of their children, a few meager possessions, and a dream for a better life. If there was a flag flying ashore, it was more than likely the hated Union Jack that had flown over their homeland and their adopted land. It was a constant reminder of their servitude to anyone who held the deed to the land they worked. This trip was a chance to escape ground that had been over farmed and debts that were harder than the ground itself.
There are no written records of their arrival. It was just another immigrant family touching the shores of the promised land. But I am sure from my research that they would have seen at least one or two of the flags that came to symbolize their new life in this place called America. The young country had run through a number of flags in its early days and the addition of stars to the field of blue was a testament to her growth.
Days of conflict lay ahead as the country struggled with growth and beliefs. By the time their son John was old enough to want to go, the war that raged across the land was waiting for him.
The flag that went into the war was seen as a guiding light of the nation for the men of the north and something that repressed states rights on the part of the southerners. The war had a high cost for all involved. But the flag that emerged was bathed by the blood of her sons and tempered by the fires of resolution. In the end, it was the flag that stood over the reconstruction of a nation. In many ways, it now added the invisible star: the star of freedom and liberty for all seekers.
Flags and banners have been at the heart of man’s existence for a very long time. We become identified with them and seek them as symbols of that identity. In battle, they provided a rallying point and signal for various maneuvers. As countries grew and developed, the flags indicated the sense of nationalism and sometimes even chauvinism. Protecting the flag in battle became an honor and a tradition that was passed from generation to generation. The British Army has rooms full of flags that are shot up, embroidered with names and dates of old battles, and sometimes blood stained. If you travel to any of our American military museums, you will see similar tributes.
The flag has always been a part of my life. It started early as we placed flags on the headstones of all the men and women who had served in the wars of this nation. It stood in the front of the church I was confirmed in. It watched over me each time I took the oath to defend that nation she stands for. It covered my Father’s coffin.
It is still there. It flies in front of my house and on every flagpole in the area that represents some part of the nation’s offices. It flies over the graveyards where her heroes rest. Every place you see it fly, it is a reminder of that invisible star.
What does it mean when someone destroys it? Is it mere cloth that becomes ash?
Thirteen stripes of red and white, and fifty stars on a field of blue.
They stand for one America, they stand for me and you.
When someone tears her from her place and sets her heart afire
They release the invisible star,
The one that still inspires.
She cannot be destroyed by matches, fuel and fire
The star which stands for liberty continues to inspire.
It lights the way for humble folk who seek prosperity
They stand together proud and strong to fight for liberty.
Each time a foe attacks her, another lesson’s learned
You might burn cloth to ashes, but the Star will never burn!
Matthew 6: 19-21
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.