Number 2 – August 2023
It is a warm Friday evening somewhere in Texas. The lines and yard markings are a crisp white against deep green of the grass. The officials are meeting to make sure of their various duties and any “ground rules” for this particular site. At 6:45 PM the visiting team enters the field, cheerleaders in front leading the way. There is a muttering of cheers from the far side of the field where the “visitors” are to be seated. The visiting school’s band strikes up their fight song. At approximately 6:46 the home team makes it entrance in similar fashion complete with cheerleaders, the drill team, band and flag corps. The band quickly moves to their assigned area of the grandstand as the two teams go through about five minutes of additional warmups. Both teams clear the field to their respective benches. At 6:56 the announcer comes on the PA system and asks everyone to stand as the high school ROTC unit color guard smartly marches on to the field. The home school band waits to begin playing our national anthem.
Both teams stand side by side on their respective sidelines, heads bared, arms interlocked, or at their sides or possibly with their right hand over their heart, whatever the coach expects them to do because anything else might influence just how many playing minutes a player could get. In the stands everyone stands because to remain seated would be embarrassing and possibly draw ire from those around you. Most face the field and remain quiet. Most of the men remove their head covering and hold it over their heart. You can usually spot the veterans as they are usually the first to stand, the first to remove their hats and the ones to show the most respect for the flag and the anthem. Most of the women also show the same level of respect.
However, in every crowd there are a few men and women who although standing continue to look around and make small comments about just about anything that perks their interest.
The words of our national anthem were penned by Francis Scott Key, an American lawyer who had been employed to negotiate with the commander of the British Fleet then in Baltimore harbor for the release of an American POW being held aboard the British ship. The release of the POW was agreed to but both he and Key were detained on the ship as the bombardment of Fort McHenry was about to commence. The following morning when it became apparent that the bombardment had failed both were sent ashore as the British began to set sail. Back at his lodging Key wrote the poem that was later put to the tune of a British drinking song that eventually became adopted as our National Anthem. The bombardment took place during what is known as the War of 1812 and sometimes referred to as the Second War of Independence. The flag that inspired Key is on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. The shelling of McHenry convinced the British that the war was a war they could not win and effectively ended the war. As a mark of respect for the garrison at Fort McHenry every new edition of our American flag is first raised at the fort.
A friend in New Zealand commented in an email that there was some “to-do” because some of Team USA’s members did not sing the national anthem. I’m not sure which national anthem but I assume it was ours. I recall attending a small business banquet here in Dallas at the Adolphus Hotel. The event included a cocktail hour before the meal with live entertainment, a man playing jazz on various saxophones. The doors to the banquet room opened and we all found our assigned seats and introduced ourselves to our table mates. Conversation continued as did the musician. About halfway through the piece he was playing just about everyone realized he was playing the national anthem. Everyone remained seated but the conversation stopped. The next year the entertainment consisted of a local middle school choir and the anthem was announced.
The word is RESPECT. The anthem should be played and/or sung as it was intended to be when our Congress recognized it. It is not a jazz, rhythm and blues, soul, pop, Country and Western or any other kind of composition. The tune is difficult to perform, and I find it hard to believe it was a British drinking song. Performing it is honoring the flag of the United States and should be a sign of respect. Respect for the ideals of the nation it represents. Those same ideals as outlined in our nation’s founding documents. Respect for the thousands of men and women who sacrificed their lives to preserve those ideals, that nation and that flag. It has special meaning for veterans as they demonstrate RESPECT, not for their service, but for the service of the men and women who stood shoulder to shoulder in defense of that nation and those ideals.
Some might say that “times have changed.” And so they have but I believe that we, as a nation, own a sign of respect for those ideals and for all those who, over the last two hundred plus years, whether in uniform or not, have strived to make those basic ideals a reality. The task is not over, the challenge continues. RESPECT is earned, many have earned it. We are obligated to strive as they have and to render RESPECT for those who have preceded us.