Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day. I like to remember and honor Veterans by remembering their sacrifices through song and poetry. The most famous of our war poems was composed during the War of 1812 by Francis Scott Key in 1814 while he was held prisoner on a British War ship outside of Baltimore Harbor. 117 years later in 1931, that poem long since set to music would become our national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner. Key and a friend had actually approached the British ship under a flag of truce in order to negotiate the exchange of prisoners so that some American citizens taken captive could be released. At the end of the successful negotiations, the British refused to release Key because he had overheard their plans for the Battle of Baltimore.

During the rainy night of September 13, 1814 he had witnessed the bombardments of the Fort McHenry which guarded the entrance to the harbor and town of Baltimore. He observed that the fort’s smaller storm flag continued to fly but once darkness fell and the rocket barrage had stopped, he would not know how that battle or the ground assault planed for Baltimore had turned until dawn. The result of this battle would dictate the outcome of the war. On the morning of September 14, the storm flag had been lowered and a much larger flag had been raised. It was easy to see in the dawn’s early light and from that inspiring site came the words now so familiar to us. While we normally sing just one verse there were four written and I would like to share all four of them with you.

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 thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s 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’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

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