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Do we understand our national anthem?
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
We hear our national anthem before ballgames and other functions: but do we understand the words that we sing?

Francis Scott Key, who wrote this famous song, was a lawyer for the American Colonies during the Revolutionary War.  He went to the British to negotiate the release of American prisoners from the British.

On an appointed day, he met with British officials on a British ship and an agreement was reached to exchange prisoners  on a one for one basis. However, the British Admiral told Key the agreement “won’t matter” stating, “Well, Mr. Key, tonight we have laid an ultimatum upon the colonies.  Your people with either capitulate and lay down the colors of that flag that you think so much of or you see that fort right over there, Fort Henry?  We’re going to remove it from the face of the earth”.  The admiral pointed to hundreds of British war ships on the horizon stating the entire war fleet with “all of its armament is being called upon to demolish that fort. It will be here within striking distance in a matter of about two and a half hours.  The war is over, these men would be free anyways.”

Key begged the admiral not to bomb the fort stating “It’s full of women and children.”  The admiral responded “ Don’t worry about it.” We’ve left them a way out.” Do you see that flag way up on the rampart?  We have told them that if they will lower that flag, the shelling will stop immediately and we’ll know that they surrender and you’ll now be under British rule.”

As twilight began to fall, hundreds of British ships unleashed deafening bombs that lit up the almost dark sky.  Key stood near the American prisoners watching hours of shelling on the fort.  The prisoners would ask “Tell us where the flag is. What have they done with the flag? Is the flag still flying over the rampart? Tell us!”  Key watched the illuminated red glare of bombs exploding, seeing the flag was still there.  He would report “ It’s still up. It’s not down.”

The admiral approached Key stating “Our reconnaissance tells us that that flag has been hit directly again and again and again and yet it’s still flying. We don’t understand that. Now we’re about to bring every gun, for the next three hours, to bear on that point.”

The barrage was unmerciful while the American prisoners prayed the prayer “God keep that flag flying where we last saw it”.

As sunrise came, a heavy mist with smoke hung over the land and sea; but Key could see the rampart and there also stood the flag, completely nondescript and in shreds.  The flag pole itself was bent in a crazy angle; but the flag was still on top.
Key went ashore and found out the flag pole had suffered repetitious hits. When it fell, men and fathers, knowing the entire British fleet were gunning for the flag, held it up humanly, until their death. As each patriot died others took their place holding up the flag. Key said what held that flagpole in place at that unusual angle were patriot’s bodies.

Francis Scott Key then penned the song;

Oh say can you see
by the dawn’s early light
what so proudly we hailed
at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars
through the perilous fight
o’er the rampart we watched
were so gallantly streaming.
And the rockets red glare,
the bombs bursting in air,
gave proof through the night,
that our flag was still there.
Oh say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave,
o’ve the land of the free,
and the home of the brave?

Let us remember, we are the Home of the Brave who paid the debt to give us the freedom we have today.  George Washington once said “The thing that sets the Americans apart from all the other people in the world is that they will die on their feet before they live on their knees”.

Frank Aquila
President of the South
San Joaquin Republicans