GENDUSA COLUMN: Our Pledge to America

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, July 3, 2024

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Heading towards Independence Day 2024, let’s take a moment to revisit first grade.  Close your eyes and recall how each school day morning began.  For many, it started with a prayer led by our teachers.  Today, most schools replace prayer with a moment of silence.

After we finished our prayers, we each turned toward the American Flag standing in the corner of the room.  We put our hands over our hearts and recited the following 31 words:

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Since it was repeated daily, every six-year-old in our nation quickly memorized the Lord’s Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.

The American flag symbolizes our unity, determination, and freedom.  It should be honored daily, not just on July 4.  The stripes and stars are draped across coffins when soldiers pass and fly at half-mast in times of loss or tragedy.  It waves in the breeze to greet schoolchildren each morning and adorns homes on every American avenue.

I remember when my brother passed away in the spring of 1998 with full military honors, the American flag that draped his coffin was placed in his wife’s hands before he was laid to rest.  As we drove from the cemetery, another flag flew high above a nearby school.

It reminds us that our banner carries the eternal hope that freedom will always prevail through generations despite battles, hardships, political turmoil, and tragedies.  Old Glory belongs to all of us, representing our solidarity and will to survive as one nation under God.

The heroic determination of six Marines was immortalized in a photograph taken by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press on top of Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945.  They hoisted the American flag as a symbol of liberty and justice during the battle of Iwo Jima. Sadly, it was the last time three of the men would view the red, white, and blue.

Sergeant Michael Stark, Corporal Harlon Block, and Private First-Class Franklin Sousley were among the thousands who sacrificed their lives to keep our flag soaring high across our nation.  Their bravery and selflessness are a testament to America’s indomitable spirit.

When we celebrate Independence Day with barbecues, go fishing in nearby lakes, express our opinions and prayers, or cheer for our home teams, we do so because of the fearlessness of people like the Marines, whose final act was to raise our flag for the world to see.  This is American allegiance at its finest hour.

Our national emblem represents all that is exemplary in our country.  It should never be used as a weapon, a political statement, or in any demeaning way.  If so, it discredits the valor of those men and women who gave their lives to keep us free to fly our flag.

We are a country that believes in human equality, rights, and fairness for all.  If we study the words of our pledge, we are never to be divided.  We are and have always been under the watchful eyes of God.

Today, we are standing on shaky American ground.  It trembles with discord and often dishonor.  Our personal dedication to a party, political candidate, or views must not be placed above our allegiance to America.  After all, we took a pledge.

This nation was bequeathed to us by our ancestors, who persevered in extreme conditions to construct a free world.

Many years ago, I once stood with my peers in a first-grade class, reciting the pledge to our nation together.  Today, I ponder what became of those six-year-olds.  Did some die during battles defending our country?  Are some poor or rich today?  Are they straight or gay, liberal or conservative, Christian, Jewish, or Muslim?

We are all citizens of a single nation, bound by the pledge to honor it regardless of our beliefs, backgrounds, or individualities.   As one unified people, we should never prioritize our individual ideologies over our identity as Americans.

In our earliest years, we were proud children, reveling in the boundless opportunities that our land offered.  We cherished the freedom to pursue our dreams, express our thoughts, and observe moments of silence for prayer.

On July 4, take a moment to appreciate the joy and greatness of our America.  Place your hand over your heart and recite a pledge you learned as a child to honor the land you live in, the God who empowers it, and the liberty, justice, and equality it offers.