When the Continental Congress first recognized the national flag of the United States of America on June 14, 1777, it marked the first time any reference to the British Empire was removed from the flag of the new nation. There have been many versions of that flag since, with today's rendition first flying on July 4, 1960, when the 50th star was added to include Hawaii, which had become the 50th state on Aug. 21, 1959.
The federal government first set aside a day to honor the flag on May 30, 1916, and President Harry S. Truman signed an act of Congress in 1949 that designated June 14 as Flag Day.
Our nation's flag is a beautiful and simple embodiment of freedom - the freedom we have to work as we please, to worship as we please and to live where and how we choose. The flag is such as a powerful symbol that it also stands guard over the freedom to destroy it in the name of protest over our government.
We're reminded of a poem by Ruth Apperson Rous that personifies the flag and gives its message heartfelt patriotism:
"Americans, I am the sacred emblem of your country. I symbolize your birthright, your heritage of liberty purchased with blood and sorrow.
"I am your title deed of freedom, which is yours to hold in trust for posterity.
"If you fail to keep this sacred trust inviolate, if I am nullified and destroyed, you and your children will become slaves to dictators and despots.
"Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.
"As you see me silhouetted against the peaceful skies of my country, remind yourself that I am the flag of your country, that I stand for what you are - no more, no less.
"Guard me well, lest your freedom perish from the earth."
Those are words to think about today, Flag Day 2013.