Glitzy, flashy and extravagant in both dress and action describes many entertainers when singing the national anthem at various venues, particularly sporting events. It seems their intent is to call attention to themselves in how good they look and sound, which could be the very reason they also sometimes botch-up the words. Contrast that to a simple rendition of the anthem performed by a small group of school children, without prior notice and without back-up music. This is precisely what was recently heard and experienced at a Memorial Day event at the Dunkirk Historical Lighthouse and Veterans Park Museum. Prepared to read short essays on the topic of the meaning of Memorial Day and the flag, they were unexpectedly asked to sing when the planned guest came down ill. Nervous, but willing, they stepped up to the challenge and helped all to feel and remember the true meaning of the day.
Memorial Day has passed, but Flag Day is this upcoming week, with the Fourth of July just around the corner. Some of the thoughts of these same students follow in the spirit of these three holidays, founded on our nation's values and noble past. Not calling attention to themselves, these children just simply and sincerely expressed their thoughts of our country and its citizens.
One essay, by fourth-grader Olivia Ley, states in part, that the American flag means everything to her and that Memorial Day and the Fourth of July are very important to her.
Pictured in center, from left, are Jonathan Mann, Cierra Smith, Arianna Long-Hobbs, Olivia Ley and Lauren Miller.
"On Memorial Day my family honors our deceased loved ones. We plant flowers at the grave sites. Often we stroll through the cemetery noticing the flags next to them. We conclude our day by having a picnic with American favorites of hamburgers, hotdogs, potato salad, and macaroni salad. To start of the Fourth of July, I rise eagerly and dress in my red, white, and blue clothes. Zippity fast I run to my friends to get our tandem bike ready for the parade with banners, stars, and tassels. We gather for a picnic and last, my family lays a blanket down to watch the fireworks over Lake Erie in Memorial Park. I can speak freely, choose my religion, and vote. If it wasn't for my flag which represents life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, I would not be able to celebrate the way I do."
Another essay, by classmate Arianna Long-Hobbs, in part, states how when she looks at the flag she is reminded of peace and liberty and of all the people who sacrificed their lives so we could be free and live.
"The flag reminds me of my great-grandfather who was in World War II and fought for this country. I'm proud of him, and every time I sing the Star Spangled Banner, I think of him and all the veterans. I wake up in the morning knowing I am safe. I am allowed to dress the way I want and also am able to have my own opinions. The flag reminds me that I can stand up for my rights."
With such family thoughts in mind, is it any wonder Arianna was excited to start the group off on the right note with the national anthem?
A third essay by Cierra Smith talked about the flag representing the soldiers that fought for the United States and the freedoms we have today because of them.
"The red on the flag means to me the blood and tears the soldiers poured from their hearts. White means the cold snow the soldiers battled in. Blue reminds me of the soldiers' attire that they wore in battle. We always want to keep our flag looking beautiful to remember our country's freedom that our sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, uncles, and grandfathers fought for throughout our great history."
Yet another essay, by Jonathan Mann, mentioned Patrick Henry with "Give me liberty or give me death" from the days of British rule and the flag representing his and others' desire for independence. "During parades and special ceremonies, when I see the colors proudly shown, I am reminded of our veterans' sacrifices to earn our freedoms. Whenever I hear the Star Spangled Banner, I think of American military's perseverance and patriotism. My two uncles and grandpa proudly served their country. As a show of respect, everyone should stand when the flag is presented (no slouching or fidgeting). I believe the flag represents a loving and caring country."
A final essay also given as a speech, by Lauren Miller, expressed in part, that she is still learning about how the flag came to be and what it stands for today. Asking family members, "My dad said the flag means strength and opportunity. It is strength of the people who immigrated here. It is opportunity to start fresh and become the best person that you can be with no one stopping you. My mom said the American flag means home to her. It is a home that allows women the right to vote, the right to education, and a country that allows women to have no limits in who they are and what they want to be. My grandfather felt so strong about this country that he lied about his age to get into the Army and serve in World War II. I know that someday I will feel as strongly about the flag as my family. I do know that we are lucky to be American and we are lucky to have all the people in history that fought to make America what it is, including those that continue to this day to protect it."
Flag Day and the Fourth of July are almost here. Make it a good week and reflect on the meaning of these holidays, the national anthem, and the sincere words of the fine youth in our midst. It doesn't need to be showy, just sincere. As one marine said, "Save the vocal gymnastics for your concerts. Just sing this song the way you were taught to sing it in kindergarten. Sing it with the constant awareness that there are soldiers watching you from bases and outposts all over the world. Sing it as if you are standing before a row of 88-year-old WWII vets wearing their Purple Hearts, Silver Stars, and flag pins on their cardigans and you want them to be proud of you for honoring them and the country they love, not because you are a superstar musician."
Send comments on this story to email@example.com