This was the first Memorial Day I got to hang the American Flag with my son’s help and explain to him the meaning of “Memory Day.” He asked very thoughtful questions like, “Why do we celebrate when none of our family has died?” and “Why would people die for us when they don’t even know us?”
Then we stood and recited the Pledge to the American Flag which he as learned at school. We surprised me by asking me to explain it phrase by phrase – and my tears surprised even me as I explained in language a five year old could understand:
“I pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America…”
“Luke, that means that while we love all nations and God created all nations, I am feel blessed and proud to be an American and live in this country because of how wonderful it is – and this flag is the symbol of this nation. A symbol is something that stands for something – just like you recognize cars by their symbols, people recognize our nation by this flag at world-wide sporting events, on rocket ships, and even by the flag on the moon that shows we were the first to land a space this there and have a man walk there three months after I was born. That’s why we respect this flag. Some say it is only cloth and you can do anything to it – they fail to see that it was only cloth until it was formed into the symbol or our country. Just as two sticks were just two sticks until we form them into a Cross and suddenly they remind us of what Jesus did when He died for us. Of course you can break the sticks and you don’t hurt Jesus, and you can hurt the flag without hurting our country, but we try our best to show respect to the flag to show how thankful we are for our country. Those who are mean to the flag are not reflecting a thankful heart for the blessings of this land.”
“…and to the Republic for which it stands,”
“Luke, a Republic is a land that is ruled by the people instead of the government. We have a government, but unlike most of the world, and unlike most of human history – we the people ARE the government, and we CHOOSE our leaders. You won’t understand who wonderful this is until you are older, but it means every four years we get to choose our President. If we don’t him or her, we can pick a new one. We pick the leader of our city, our state, and even our neighborhood. That is why we love our flag so much, because each of those stars stands for one of those states that all are part of the One Republic for which it stands.”
“…one nation under God,”
“Luke, under God means that our nation, when it was started was planned as a nation that would follow God’s Laws – in a minute we’ll talk about Liberty and Justice – but those needed limits, and they needed to be limited by God’s Laws, otherwise anyone could do anything they wanted and the world would be a crazy place. Someone has to decide what is right and wrong, and there is no better Person to do that than God. So our founders (the men and women who started our nation) said all our laws would be based on God’s Laws so things would never get too crazy. Anything in our culture that is crazy, is usually because our laws are going against God’s Laws – you remember that.”
“Luke, I’m sad to say, our nation tried to split once. It was a long and terrible battle you will learn about in school someday called the Civil War. We weren’t at war with another country, but with ourselves. It was a war between the North of America and the South of America and whether we would divide and become two countries or one, and whether all people would have Freedom and Liberty and Justice for all, but you’ll more about that too when you get older. But we have decided to be One Nation from now on.”
“…with Liberty and Justice for all.”
“Luke, I’ve been to fourteen different countries around the world, and while every country has wonderful and beautiful things and the people are special and love their land and are equally loved by God – every time I came back to America I could tell how blessed and lucky I was to have been born and live here. Liberty is the freedom to live your own life the way you want to without anyone (especially the government) telling you how to live your life. It is something constantly under attack, and something we need to defend always, even here in America. But Liberty is something that is rare around the world. For many people around the world what they will do, how much money they will make, who they will marry or other things are determined the day they are born – but in America we have something we call The American Dream. Some think the American Dream is that if you are an American you should get this or that – nope. The American Dream means if you are willing to work hard, you have the opportunity to have whatever you dream. There is no one telling you “no” except you. Dream it – and work toward it!
Justice means that no matter who you are, the Justice System is available to you. In many places around the world, only the rich or famous or powerful get Justice, the unknown, poor or unconnected can only hope for justice. Here, if you can’t afford a lawyer, one is given to you. You are assumed innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around!”
(I was starting to lose him by now, he is only five, after all! But he was listening intently!)
“But Luke, a nation like America isn’t just something that happens easily – it has to be fought for. There have been evil nations that have sought to destroy us – and while many nations make their young men become soldiers, our soldier are all volunteers! That means they all sign up on their own! They just love America so much, they sign up so go and fight for America. They go to far away places to defend our Liberties, to free people who are in trouble – America is the Super Hero of the world, and our flag is like the S on Superman’s chest – when people in trouble see the USA is coming they know help is on the way. And when we win, we don’t conquer or take over, we help rebuilt and leave!
And Luke, we even help rebuilt our enemies and become their friends. Many of our friends today, Japan, Germany, Russia – were once mortal enemies – but we are a Good Nation, we stand for what is Good, so we win, and then we hold out our hand and help those who were trying to kill us, unlike any nation in World History.
That is why your dad is proud to be an American, and that is why I want to raise you to be a Patriot and why today we Remember those who died so that we might be free.”
Your Patriot Dad,