Thursday, July 14, 2011

Raising the 15-Star Flag at Fort McHenry

The Fourth of July Holiday to many brings thoughts of barbecues, sunshine at the beach and family gatherings. This past Fourth of July was a very special one for me, as I had the opportunity to do something few people ever do. On a five-day vacation in the Baltimore/Annapolis area, I planned to see some of the historic sites I'd not experienced before. On Thursday June 30th, 2011 my wife and I visited the Maryland Historical Society's (MHS) headquarters in downtown Baltimore. That night was a unique occasion-- as they were unveiling the original document- the Star Spangled Banner poem written by Francis Scott Key as he witnessed "the bombs bursting in air..." over Fort McHenry during its bombardment by the British on September 13th and 14th, 1814. The MHS was "bringing it back home" after its recent stay at the Fort. The Star-Spangled Banner will now reside permanently in the Society's collection, a gem amongst hundreds of other notable artifacts in their archives.

On Friday, July 1st we went over early to Fort McHenry and I was honored in being allowed to raise the 15-Star Flag up the flagpole into the bright sunshine of a glorious day. I was thrilled in being given this opportunity, as I'd assumed only National Park Service personnel would be allowed that duty. Seeing the flag waving in the light breeze, I could hear the bombs bursting overhead and imagined myself on the ship out in the harbor, standing with Francis Scott Key, peering into the early morning light... to see that... our flag was still there.

If you plan to visit Fort McHenry, you'll find their new Visitor Center quite impressive, with a 20-minute film on the War of 1812, the history of the Fort and the heroes who fought there. For a chance to raise the flag, be sure to get there before 9:30 a.m. and ask one of the rangers if you can assist them. Whether it be the Fourth of July or any other day during the year, you'll feel as I did... the honor and the gratitude for the efforts of all the brave men and women who've kept this country safe... "O'er the land of the free... and the home...of the brave..."