“The Star-Spangled Banner” lyric, “Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just” echoed in my mind as I walked through the open, grassy field of the Saratoga Battlefield outside Schuylerville, New York.
Up to this point in my life, I had viewed history through the eyes of a learning child—a child who couldn’t fully grasp the concept of war.
Now, as a young woman with a little more life experience, I finally was beginning to understand the sacrifice that war requires.
The Revolutionary War, fought between 1775 and 1783, pitted a young America against England as she battled for her freedom to be a separate nation. On May 10, 1775, Reverend Jacob Duché opened the Second Continental Congress by quoting Psalm 80:14: “Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine” (Psalm 80:14 KJV).
Reverend Duché called upon God to return to the vine He planted that was America, and for the leaders of this country to dedicate the United States to Almighty God. The Second Continental Congress ushered in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and Articles of Confederation and also marked the adoption of the official flag of the United States of America.
After learning of the new flag design, but not yet receiving one, soldiers in the Revolutionary War created—with the scraps of uniforms—the first new flag flown in battle with scraps of soldiers’ uniforms. This battle fought in Rome, N.Y., brought a victory that launched the turning point of the war: the Battles of Saratoga.
The Battles of Saratoga were fought during September and October of 1777. The Continental Army, led by commander-in-chief George Washington, had successfully beat back the British troops and cut their supply route. The victory greatly boosted American morale and persuaded the Dutch, French, and Spanish to join the American forces.
For the first time in world history, the British Army surrendered. One month after the fighting in Rome and with our nation’s new flag proudly displayed, the decisive victory in Saratoga occurred 244 years before I walked these same grounds.
As I made my way to the edge of the hill, looking upon the battlefield, I imagined the skirmish unfolding: the firing of muskets, the clash of swords, the grunts and cries of desperate soldiers. It was surreal to stand where the beginning of my beloved country took place.
A new feeling arose inside me, one of pride, honor, patriotism, and overwhelming gratitude for the sacrifices of human life made here. Two cannons overlooking the Hudson Valley sat in the middle of the battlefield as a reminder of the fierce fighting that occurred there.
As I watched an American flag waving gently in the breeze atop one of the cannons, Flag Day suddenly took on great significance for me.
The American flag is a symbol of freedom and costly sacrifice. It serves as a reminder of the patriots both past and present who gave their all for America. In a federal proclamation in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson called upon the nation to observe Flag Day with special patriotic exercises to “give significant expression to our thoughtful love of America, our comprehension of the great mission of liberty and justice to which we have devoted ourselves as a people, our pride in history and our enthusiasm for the political [program] of the nation.”
Perhaps now more than ever, our nation must allow these words of President Wilson to take root: “Let us on that day rededicate ourselves to the nation … We shall stand with united hearts, for an America which no man can corrupt, no influence draw away from its ideals, no force divide against itself.”
Flag Day serves as a necessary reminder of the vision our Founding Fathers had for our country and a chance to renew our commitment to it. May this Flag Day of 2021 spur our nation to remember what our flag stands for, the patriots who sacrificed on our behalf and our Pledge of Allegiance affirming that we are “one nation under God.”
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Emily Moulin, a tenth grader, is a My Faith Votes influencer and Christ follower. As an honor-roll student, she enjoys researching and writing about history and current events. She writes for the leading independent publisher of news and current events for students and teachers and has received awards for her writing and photography. She adores spending time with her family and mini goldendoodle. Visit My Faith Votes, a non-partisan movement that motivates, equips, and activates Christians in America to vote in every election, at myfaithvotes.org.