Our opinion: Flags tell our story

One of America’s most revered symbols of strength and resolve hangs in the massive lobby of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

It is shot full of holes and tattered. It is faded. It is odd in that it has 15 stars and 15 stripes.

It is glorious.

It was the inspiration for a poem that would come to be our nation’s musical anthem.

Our Flag tells our story, from a collection of 13 independent and sovereign colonies to a union of 50 states. It is what we cling to in times of triumph (atop a mountain on an island called Iwo Jima) and in times of sadness (cradled in the arms of a loved one by the grave of a departed veteran or fallen soldier).

In Warren, we tell a story with flags that attempts to explain a much longer history, the timeline of a land that different cultures and governments all claimed at one time or another. The Four Flags that fly over the Allegheny at Heritage Point include banners representing the Seneca Nation of Indians, the first “settlers,” the royal French Fleur-de-Lis, the British Union, and the original Old Glory commissioned by George Washington, Robert Morris and George Ross. It was a time when the United States of America was still used as a plural reference.

This United States of America, now a single entity, has a unique and extraordinary history, and the flags which portray that lesson should be a symbol of our pride in this land and its heritage.

The Four Flags of Warren are obtained and maintained by a group of local service organizations, not local, state or federal governments. They are ours, every one of us. We are not required to maintain them through taxes. We do it out of love and respect.

Now those flags are in need of replacement, having borne the misfortunes of the elements.

It is up to us to restore them.

A new Betsy Ross flag is ordered in hopes to replace it this year. All four will be replaced in 2014, according to Don Reed, a spokesman for the group.

Donations to support the effort are being accepted. Checks can be made out to the 4 Flags Joint Service Club Project and sent to: Four Flags Joint Service Club Committee; Don Reed, Treasurer; c/o Warren Lions Club; PO Box 622; Warren, PA 16365.