There was a man once, his name was Francis Scott Key. He penned the words to a song we all know as The Star Spangled Banner, but few are those who know how it came about. Most are oblivious to the sacrifice that brought us our National Anthem.
The year is 1814, Key, a young lawyer by trade, is hired by the American government to negotiate the exchange of British prisoners for American POWs being held in filthy conditions onboard British ships offshore in Baltimore. After the accord is struck, a British Admiral approaches Key and says to him that they will honor the release agreement but that it was unnecessary as the war will soon be over.
Key, confused at the words, asks the Admiral to the meaning of his comments. The Admiral points to the sea and tells Key to look out. The entire horizon was filled with the sails of hundreds of ships. Then the Admiral bluntly says that the entire British War Fleet is two hours out. He then says that this very night, the rebellious colonies will be presented with an ultimatum as he turns to Fort McHenry on Baltimore bay, he says, “You will lower that flag as a sign of capitulation or we will erase that flag and fort from the face of the Earth.”
Key, struck by the terrible prospect, goes below and tells the men. He staid with them and then told them he would go on deck near the entry to below and describe as best he could what he would see. At Dusk, all the British ships which had been strategically moored, opened fire in unison. The sound was deafening. The darkening skies turned bright as day light under the glare of the guns and detonations.
One hour turned to three. Three hours turned to six. Then, all the fire seemed to concentrate on the Rampart that held the flag. From below came the shouts of the men asking what had happened to the flag? Was it still there? The Admiral approached Key and said, “your people are insane. This is an impossible situation to overcome.” Key remembered what he had heard George Washington once say and told the Admiral, “the thing that sets the American Christian apart from all the other people of the world is that he will die on his feet before he lives on his knees.”
The Admiral looked at Key and said, “there is another thing. Our intelligence has reported continuous hits on that rampart and every time the flag begins to come down it goes back up again. We don’t understand it.” The shelling continued for three more hours and every time the flag came down it immediately went back up lighted by the detonations striking the rampart. All that Key could hear among the deafening thunder was the prisoners below praying for God to keep the flag flying until they ran out of shells and powder.
As Dawn broke, the shelling stopped. Sunrise finally came after a full night of relentless shelling of the fort. The flag was still there. Key took a boat to the shore and made his way to the Fort. He learned that what had taken place is the stuff Greek hero legends are made of. The Rampart had been grounded down to dust and what had held the flag was human hands. Every time the flag came down, men would rush to the flag and stand among the broken bodies until they too died and others took their place. It was done all night. What held the flag was the bodies of American Patriots.
To this day no one really knows how many men sacrificed their lives so that the flag remained flying. This is truly the land of the free bought by a debt which demanded the price of blood paid by the courage of the brave. To take a knee or turn your back is dishonoring a sacrifice few today are willing to make. Do not dishonor their memory by disrespecting our national Anthem.