Francis Scott Key wrote a poem that for 200 years has prompted Americans to place their hands over their hearts to show pride and respect for their country.
Thomasville veterans who served in various wars hold the flag in high regards because they risked their lives to protect it and all that it stands for — just as Key wrote in his poem 200 years ago. They offered their opinions in this story in observance of Flag Day.
Frank Connell, 90, of Thomasville served in the U.S. Navy during World War II in 1944-45. He was medically discharged after losing his left eye.
Despite his injury, Connell never lost sight of the “big deal” of the American flag.
“It means my whole life. It’s always been a big deal to me,” he said. “I’d go back to war at 90 years old if I had to. I’d fight anybody that tried to abuse it.”
Robert F. Thourson, also 90 and a World War II veteran from Thomasville, talked about how the flag demonstrates the “home of the brave” and all the country holds dear.”
He said, “The flag represents the land that is ‘the government of the people, by the people.’ It represents our system of checks and balances. It is the home of the brave.
“Democracy and freedom are demonstrated by our flag and the people who fought for it. We live together and work together. The American flag holds us together.”
Thourson joined the U.S. Air Force in 1942. He was only 18 when he joined. He was honorably discharged three years later.
Col. Joseph Emerson Brown of Thomasville is moved each time he sees the flag on the uniform of American soldiers. Brown was in Vietnam in 1966-67 and again in 1971-72. He retired as a colonel in 1984 before starting his own company in weapons consulting in Washington, D.C.
“It is inspiring for me to see the flag worn on the combat uniform of an American soldier, who stands ready to defend our way of life from any aggressor,” he said.
On Sept. 13, 1814, British warships began blasting rockets onto Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor. For 25 hours, the bombing continued. This event was known as the Battle of Baltimore, a battle during the War of 1812 forever changed patriotism in the U.S. because of one man’s poem about a the American flag.
Aboard a British ship in the Chesapeake Bay was Key, a 35-year old American lawyer. He was there to seek the release of a friend who was held captive.
Key watched from the ship as the bombardment began and he began writing. He placed his thoughts on paper and created a poem that became the America’s national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It was made official by a congressional resolution that was signed by President Herbert Hoover on March 3, 1931.
Today, the flag that inspired Key hangs in the Smithsonian.
Reporter Susanne Reynolds can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1826.