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Commentary -- Our American Flag

"The things that a flag stands for were created by the experiences of a great people. Everything that it stands for was written by their lives."

- Woodrow Wilson

Our American Flag ... has 13 red and white stripes waving freely in the wind, proudly guarding that field of blue with its 50 white stars. Those bright starts and bold stripes have stood for more than 200 years as symbols of the deeply held belief that have made and kept our country strong and free.

Our American Flag ... carries poignant memories of our nation's triumphant past, and also bears a powerful message of hope for the present and future of our nation and our world. It is a glad that stands for generation after generation of individuals who have never stopped believing in the principles of liberty, equality and justice. Ours is a flag that flies to bring the pledge of freedom and justice to all people.

Historical Facts About Our American Flag

• Our flag is 233 years old. On July 4, 1776, our country declared our independence from England and became the United States of America. Although the Betsy Ross legend is not taken seriously by many historians, the design itself if the oldest version of any U.S. flag known to exist. It consisted of 13 red and white stripes for the original 13 states and a field of blue with 13 stars, each also representing one of the 13 original states.

• Two more stripes and two more stars were added in 1795 when Vermont and Kentucky were admitted to the Union. In 1818, Congress passed an act that the flag would permanently revert to 13 stripes for each of the original colonies and add only a star for each new state admitted.

• In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed June 14 as our flag's birthday (Flag Day).

• The flag has seen 26 changes through history. The flag we still use today, with 13 stripes and 50 stars, became official on July 4, 1960, following Hawaii's admission to the Union in August 1959.

• The flag, planted by astronaut Neil Armstrong and Col. Edwin Aldrin on the moon in 1969, is 238,548 miles from Earth.

Submitted by Joyce Pieske on behalf of the American Legion, VFW and AmVets auxiliaries, and prepared by Dee Dee Buckley, 2008-2009 Department of Americanism chair