Recently, I found myself standing next to a veteran of war as we recited the Pledge of Allegiance. When we finished, this kind elderly gentleman asked if he could share something with me. Who am I to refuse this war veteran my attention for but a few moments; especially after considering he risked his life for my freedoms?
He began to explain to me that I did not recite the Pledge correctly. Imagine my surprise as I've considered myself to be one of the most patriotic people I know. This patriotism includes knowing most of our patriotic songs, protocols with the flag and of course, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
He asked me why I hesitated after stating "one nation - under God."
"Well," I told him. "This is how I was taught or perhaps this is how I've heard it repeated time and time again."
So, he pulled out a folded piece of paper...one just small enough to fit into his wallet. It was yellow and clearly showed signs of age. He carefully opened this square, fragile piece of paper until it laid flat in the palm of his hand. There it was, the Pledge of Allegiance in print.
Likely part of an old newspaper, he told me he'd carried this with him all through WWII while stationed overseas. He directed my eyes to the paper with his fingers as he read: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United State of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisable, with liberty and justice for all. With complete confidence, he pointed to the comas throughout the Pledge. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, "You should never pause here, here or here," as he continued to direct me through the small piece of paper with his index finger. "You should say the words without stopping until the comma. Then and only then do you pause."
After this encounter, I attended several other organization and community meetings such as City Council, Kiwanis and Rotary meetings. Guess what? Everyone, with the exception of the Puyallup Downtown Rotary, recited the Pledge incorrectly...according to my new friend and WWII veteran Oscar.
Many people do not know our Pledge of Allegiance was composed by Francis Bellamy in 1892 and was formally adopted by Congress as the Pledge in 1942. It was to be an expression of loyalty to the federal flag and the republic of the United States of America. When originally written, it did not contain the portion which reads "under God" and was rewritten four times, with the last change in 1954 to include these two words.
On Independence Day, we should honor our founding fathers. We should show respect and give thanks to the men and women who gave their lives, so that we would be blessed and gifted with the many freedoms we often assume to be our right. Our right? Perhaps. However, I prefer to consider them our priviledge. In doing this, we never forget the price paid for the freedoms we often fail to honor, respect and appreciate.
So the next time you recite the Pledge of Allegiance, please remember to remove your hat, stand tall, hold your head up and place your hand over your heart. Don't just say the words, but proudly profess them.
Think about countries all over the world who are fighting for the freedoms we have already won with the blood of our military. Remember those soldiers, who continue today, to help these countries win their wars so that they might someday claim the same freedoms we've come to know and trust. God Bless you and keep you safe this July 4th and God Bless America!