There have been more than a couple of flag designs since the birth of our Great Nation back in 1776. It has been altered and changed down through the years to honor and reflect the growth of the United States and on June 14, this country shall once again observe Flag Day.

The 48-star flag was used in the United States longer than any other U.S. flag design. It lasted from 1912 to 1959, when Alaska became the 49th state.

It was not until 1912 that Arizona became the 48th state, and it was the last state of the continental United States. That meant that our country now officially stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from “sea to shining sea.”

The 48-star flag saw the United States emerge as a world power. It was the flag that the United States fought under in the First World War. It was the flag that flew over our country during the nation’s bleakest period, the Great Depression, and it was the flag that saw the United States through the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Second World War, and the Korean War.

Probably the most dramatic image of the 48-star flag was taken by photographer Joe Rosenthal on Iwo Jima during the Second World War. The U.S. Marines invaded the tiny Pacific Island in February and March of 1945 in order to establish an air base from which U.S. planes could attack Japan. Japan had heavily fortified the island and was already using it as an air base. Fighting was intense, and thousands of Marines lost their lives in capturing the island. Although the U.S. flag was raised on Iwo Jima on Feb. 13, the island did not fall under U.S. control until March 16, 1945.

A statue of the five brave Marines and Navy corpsman that raised the 48-star flag at Iwo Jima stands near Arlington Cemetery in Virginia. One of those five brave soldiers was PFC Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from the 48th state of Arizona.

The 49-star flag was one of America’s shortest-lived flags, it only lasted for one year (July 4, 1959, to July 4, 1960). This flag represented Alaska’s admission to the Union and on July 4, 1960, the 50th star was added to the U.S. flag for the state of Hawaii.

The 50-star flag, of course, is our current flag. Like the 48-star flag, the 50-star flag has also seen many historic events. It was draped over John F. Kennedy’s casket; it has witnessed the Civil Rights Movement and the war in Vietnam. It was raised by our astronauts on the moon on July 20, 1969, and it witnessed a joyous time for all Americans – the celebration of our country’s 200th birthday on July 4, 1976. And of course, the 50-star flag is witnessing today’s history in the making.

The United States flag represents what our country stands for – liberty, justice, equality, and opportunity – at home and abroad. Our country was created with a dream in mind, that Americans could live as free people and that Americans could achieve their highest potential they wanted to.

But in order for our country to live up to its creed, we ourselves must do likewise. By abiding to the principles found in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, upholding our laws and changing them when they need to be changed, gaining knowledge, and being productive citizens, we are keeping our Nation the greatest on earth. Therefore, we must be aware of what the United States stands for, and we must take an interest in our country. Otherwise, the principles that our country stands for will fade away like the colors of a weather-worn flag.

Reference: “What You Should Know About the American Flag” by Earl P. Williams Jr.

• Mike Calvert will explain the Civil War’s “Second Battle of Independence” before the Sons of Confederate Veterans – Hughes Camp, at 7 p.m. June 12 at Kross Lounge and Ernie’s Restaurant, 605 N. Sterling Ave., Sugar Creek. The lecture is free and visitors are always welcome.

To reach Ted W. Stillwell, send an email to  or call him at 816-252-9909.