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Ann LePage: Flag Day symbolizes respect for soldiers

Kevin Bennett | BDN
Kevin Bennett | BDN
Maine's first lady Ann LePage poses in the sunroom of the Blaine House with the family dog, Baxter, on Friday, Dec. 16, 2011.
By Ann LePage, Special to the BDN

These flags are to be used in all schools for the education of the youth of our state, to teach them the cost, the object and principles of our government, the great sacrifices of our forefathers, the important part taken by the Union army … and to teach them to love, honor and respect the flag of our country that cost so much and is so clear to every true American citizen. — Public Laws 1907, chapter 182.

In 1907, the Maine State Legislature passed a law requiring all towns to provide flags to their schools. Forty-two years later, the U.S. Congress followed that tradition and established June 14 as Flag Day.

It behooves all of us as citizens, as men and women who pledge allegiance to the flag, to take a few moments out of our day to reflect on what the flag means.

What does it mean to the widow who receives it on behalf of the president and a grateful nation?

What does it mean to the immigrant who raises her right hand as she faces it and becomes a citizen?

What does it mean to the elderly French woman, who remembers waving it as a child when freedom returned?

For each of these — and for countless others — the flag means something different. That is all together fitting and proper.

But, at its most basic, it always stands for the same: a symbol of our Republic, the people who comprise it and especially those who protect it.

Flag Day is the anniversary of the Continental Congress’ adoption of the stars and stripes as the symbol of our nation. More importantly, Flag Day is an opportunity to reflect on all of the things and the people that make up our great nation.

Most near and dear to my heart is the well-being of our troops. They all have risked — and many have sacrificed — their lives to protect this country. Over the last two years, I am humbled by the many wonderful people I have met, and the many fabulous events I have been able to witness and be a part of.

For instance, this past Memorial Day my husband I were honored to be the first governor and first lady to participate in the American Legion’s graveside flag ceremony at the veterans cemetery in Augusta.

This was a remarkable event. It is always heartwarming to see the sense of duty and respect that the American Legion has for our fallen soldiers.

I was also lucky enough to be part of the Wreaths Across America event, where I was able to ride along in the convoy which brings an annual donation of wreaths from Maine to Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., to lay on the graves of each of its soldiers.

The countless acts of love, kindness and respect I witnessed at these and many other events are awe-inspiring. It is truly incredible the amount of reverence and honor people have for our troops and our veterans.

I can safely say that from all I have seen across this state and this country, Americans deeply respect the sacrifices our soldiers make to protect the things and the people they love. It is a respect that is removed from age, gender or politics. It is a respect that unites us as a nation.

Flag Day is a perfect opportunity to express that respect — perhaps with a salute to our flag, a handshake to a soldier or even reciting the pledge of allegiance. However you decide to celebrate, please take a moment today to reflect on what the flag means to you.

The American flag may mean many different things to different people, but when I stop today to reflect on our flag, I will think about all the wonderful people who make up this great state of Maine, how blessed we are to live in this great nation and how lucky we are to have our troops protecting us.

Ann LePage, wife of Gov. Paul LePage, is the first lady of Maine.

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