A couple weeks ago I was watching a Netflix Original called Sand Castle, about an Army soldier. At one point I realized that the American Flag patch on the soldiers uniform appeared to be backwards, with the stars on the right side. At first, I thought maybe it was one of those movie mix-ups, but quickly realized that it was that way on all of the soldier’s uniforms.
The American flag has come a long way since Betsy Ross’s original design with 13 stars and 13 strips. The number 13 symbolized the 13 colonies in 1777. A star has been added for each state, bringing the total up to 50. The flag may evoke different emotions for each of us, but overall it represents liberty, justice, and freedom. There is a U.S. Flag Code (36 U.S.C. 173-178) which is a guide for how the flag can be handled and displayed. Included in the verbiage of the Code is the following, “The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.” Wow, just let that sink in for a moment!
As the movie ended I kept thinking about the flag patch. While most people these days would just pull up Google and get an instant answer, my first instinct was to go to a first-hand source – a co-worker who is an Army Veteran. I think I was pretty straightforward, “why is the American flag “backwards” on an Army uniform?” I hadn’t really given it a whole lot of thought, so I guess I’m not really sure what I was expecting for an answer. He replied by saying that the flag is displayed as if the wind was blowing it while the wearer is moving forward. He said to think of it as if the soldier is running towards the enemy so it would be flying with the stars at the front and the stripes towards the back.
I was admittedly a little dumbfounded. I just sat there for a couple minutes, very much in awe of such a simple, yet powerful response. Then I felt a little embarrassed. I am thirty years old. I asked myself, first of all, how did it take me so long to even notice this? Second, how do we live in such a “pro-military” country, yet something like this is not common knowledge? One word was stuck in my head. Brave.
I cannot begin to imagine the courage and bravery it takes for someone to enlist in the military. I lost my mother at a young age, overcame cancer, and gave birth to two babies. I don’t feel like I’m on the same level when it comes to courage and bravery as someone in the military. Of course, young men and women enlist for a variety of reasons, but to commit yourself to something much larger and complex than most of us can even imagine, takes an incredible amount of heroism.
It is amazing to me that something as seemingly simple as the direction that the flag is facing can have such an impact on our outlook. After I had wrapped my head around all of this, I came to the realization that I have a platform to share this knowledge. Growing up, I didn’t really have any servicemen in my family, so it wasn’t something I gave a lot of thought to. I want to make sure that my daughters grow up having an appreciation for those who are currently or have formerly served our country. I think this is a concept that we can start teaching at the toddler stage. I want them to grow up and not take their freedoms for granted. Freedom certainly is not free.
The Flag of the United States of America. United States Code. 10 Feb 2005 http://www.usflag.org/uscode36.html Accessed 14 June 2017