Happy Birthday, America!

I’ve always been proud that I was born in the same month as America. Flying the flag on this particular day is probably our most graphic sign of patriotism.

Many people hoist Old Glory 365 days a year. We do. In fact, you couldn’t convince Jim Hill not to fly it after 25 years in the Air Force including, like a multitude of others, going to war for his country.

Remember the proliferation of flags after 9/11? They appeared everywhere, especially affixed to car windows. These are just some of the reasons we rejoice in saying Happy 238th to our country.

Tradition and history make worthy reflections today. For instance: why red, white and blue? Some original pundits contended it was a no-brainer, being the same colors as the Union Jack and what else would our Founding Fathers choose?

I like President Ronald Reagan’s words when, in 1986 he proclaimed The Year of the Flag, noting that: “Red (is) for courage and readiness to sacrifice; white for pure intentions and high ideals; and blue for vigilance and justice.”

The design of Betsy Ross’ original flag was the 13 red and white stripes, representing the original colonies – one of which was, of course, South Carolina. The white stars on that flag were in a circle on the blue background so all the colonies appeared equal.

The Declaration of Independence was adopted on Thursday July 4, 1776 and contains 56 signatures. The oldest — no surprise, — was Benjamin Franklin, 70, of Pennsylvania.

The two youngest, at age 26, were both from South Carolina: Thomas Lynch Jr. and Edward Rutledge.

Ironic coincidence underscores presidential history on this date. Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence later to serve as Presidents of the United States, died on the same day: July 4, 1826, which was also the 50th anniversary of the Declaration.

I’d heard the story of how we almost had the turkey – Franklin’s choice – as our national bird. He was outvoted by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson who opted for the bald eagle. What I hadn’t heard before was Ole Ben’s assessment, quoted from a letter to his daughter on the latter fowl, that: “He is a Bird of bad moral character. He does not get his Living honestly,” citing his penchant for being too lazy to fish for himself and taking the catch from another bird. “For in Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America.”

Three more peeks into history. Celebrations of The Fourth began as early as 1777, when in Philadelphia there was a parade, fireworks and a 13-shot cannon salute. After the final damage to the Liberty Bell in 1846, it is no longer struck, but is symbolically tapped 13 times on this date. And, 12 million Americans will consume about 155 million hot dogs this day, making it the biggest hot dog holiday of the year.

The Pledge of Allegiance was written 122 years ago by Francis Bellamy and has in its final version 31 words which are in fact a capsule of patriotism. Perhaps these words might be the most appropriate to inscribe on America’s birthday card:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.