Mark Baisley
Imagine a nation so founded in hostilities that its state song is a poem about war, put to music.  There is such a country whose national anthem contains lyrics like, “Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just.”  Here are more verses from their proud hymn, including the words “blood” and “terror”:

“And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave”

Gruesome stuff; war, blood, foul pollution, gloom and grave.  Would it surprise you then that the next verses are:
“And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave”?

Francis Scott Key wrote all four stanzas of America’s national anthem while witnessing the Battle of Baltimore in 1812.  The “broad stripes and bright stars” were components of the largest American flag to ever fly in battle.  The stripes measured two feet wide and were matched by two-foot-diameter stars.  Major George Armistead, the commanding officer asked for "a flag so large that the British will have no difficulty in seeing it from a distance."

America has been under attack ever since 56 colonists penned their signatures to our founding document, declaring that liberty belongs to everyone.  Freedom bothers wicked people.  Freedom is a constant reminder to oppressive political rulers that their ideologies are embarrassingly inferior.

Century after century, some international miscreant smacks his soft head against the rough side of the Liberty Bell.  Whether a monarch, a nazi dictator, imperial emperor, communist despot, or islamofascist, all self-absorbed tyrants learn the power of selflessness from the American warfighter.

I met one of these heroes yesterday outside of a grocery store; a Navy veteran of World War II, collecting funds for the VFW by selling “Buddy Poppies” for donations.  I tossed in my $5 bill, shook his hand and thanked him for his great service.  He simply smiled and nodded.  The only statement of his historical courageousness was the garrison cap on his head sporting the name of the ship on which he served.

This quietude is what we have come to expect of the brave champions who gave us the freedoms that we enjoy all day, every day.  They are everything that the despots are not; humble, self-sacrificing, and devoted to an eternal cause greater than themselves.

I once caught a rare moment of candor by the World War II hero in our family, my father-in-law George Leake.  While we know very little of the time he spent in the Pacific Theater, we do know that he endured everything from seasickness to snakes as he bobbed from island to island serving as ground support to military aircraft in the US Army Air Corps.  The photo here, captured on my smartphone, was an open history lesson that he gave to my son, Allan.  This is the remarkable moment of a 91-year-old WWII veteran kneeling next to a map, describing to his grandson where he served in the Pacific some seventy years earlier.

The United States of America is one of the few nations in history that has a founding document and it boasts the oldest working constitution.  The founders got a lot of things right.  Yet it is the primitive nature of uncivilized men who seek to disestablish what they deny in their hearts is the intention of God.

The Founders declared war against tyranny in 1776 and Americans are destined to fight a never-ending series of battles to retain their gift of freedom.  Most of these are political engagements against our own domestic rebels, whose worldview would return us to 1775 conditions when the church was the state.  We celebrate election victories with loud fanfare and bragging rights, happy that freedom will see another sunrise in America.

But today, Memorial Day 2012, we remember the battles that are fought with steel.  It is an unfortunate reality that liberty is not attained; only sustained.  The wickedness of tyranny will never allow the virtue of freedom to rest.

Between World War I and World War II, Congress adopted the Star Spangled Banner as the national anthem of the United States.  Francis Scott Key’s poem inspires us to wage a ferocious fight against the enemies of personal independence.  And he poses the question to be asked after every war and after every election, “O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

Thank you, Dad.


O say can you see by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


Mark Baisley

Mark Baisley is a security and intelligence professional