Happy birthday, Old Glory

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The white stripes stand for tears shed during battle.

The red ones, valor.

And the blue background on which 50 stars are displayed, for the image of heaven.

Together, the tri-colored flag Americans refer to as the Stars and Stripes, or Old Glory or the Grand Old Flag has represented, for people like Bob Reddick, the ongoing challenge of protecting freedom.

"For me, it's a privilege to see the flag," said Reddick, a past district commander of American Legion Post 4 who fought in World War II.

"People take it for granted," he said. "We fought for our country, but we also fought for that flag."

Since the first flag was authorized by the fledgling Continental Congress on June 14, 1777, it has changed its look " and monikers used to describe it " several times.

The iconic image of America was celebrated in a ceremony at the state Capitol grounds, commemorating both the Army's 233rd birthday and the celebration of Flag Day, which occurs today.

Men with cropped haircuts and Army dress uniforms sat alongside white-haired military veterans on Friday, occasionally snapping to attention during the flag salute or the introduction of the country's colors by a somber, silent military procession.

The festivities were part history lesson and part patriotic exercise, celebrating an instantly recognizable iconic image.

For retired Command Sergeant Major W. Wayne Wilson, the flag represents America's strength.

"It's no accident that the Stars and Stripes and the U.S. Army share this special day. The U.S. Army and the flag have always worked hand in hand."

The U.S. Army was formed on June 14, 1775, when 10 companies of infantrymen were authorized by the Continental Congress to serve in the Revolutionary War.

In celebrating the U.S. Army's birthday, Col. Michael Carlson said today's soldiers, just like those infantrymen more than two centuries ago, share the same values.

"We are not here to promote war, but to stand ready to protect peace," he said.

Carlson noted that in the United States' history, 42 million have served their country in the armed forces, and 500,000 have died protecting freedom.

For Carson City Supervisor Robin Williamson, the flag represents the will of dozens of locals who worked to place a giant flag on C Hill that was dedicated May 14, 2005.

Williamson spoke of the volunteers who hauled concrete blocks up the hill to ensure the flag would be permanently affixed, able to withstand powerful and adverse weather conditions.

"As we look to the west, we can see what a small group of people can accomplish," Williamson said.

The flag that people see on the hill is evolutionary, borne from the first flag colonists first flew in 1707. The union bars that once paid homage to the colonies' British roots have been replaced by a field of tiny white stars on a blue background, with 13 alternating red and white bars. An honor guard presented a brief history of the flag, which was first memorialized in song by Francis Scott Key as the "Star-Spangled Banner" as a 15-star, 15-stripe flag flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, measuring 30 feet wide and 42 feet long.

No matter what the size of today's flag, it still evokes emotion for Nevada National Guard Master Sgt. Clinton Dudley, who attended Friday's breezy ceremony.

An exercise like the one he participated in reminds Dudley of the history and meaning behind the multicolored cloth.

"I get chills every time I hear the national anthem or see the flag flying," he said.


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