I pledge allegiance
Marine Lance Cpl. O.J. Santa Maria stood up from his bed, where he was receiving an intravenous blood transfusion. The native Filipino machine-gunner had been wounded in Iraq, his humerus bone shattered by shrapnel. Now, back in the United States, the Purple Heart-winner was becoming an American citizen. When doctors told him to sit down, Santa Maria refused. "It's for the respect," he said. "I'm taking an oath to the Constitution of the United States of America." Halfway through the ceremony, Santa Maria broke down and began to cry.
To the flag of the United States of America
After three weeks of battle in Iraq, Marines reached the center of Baghdad. With U.S. forces in control, Iraqis begged permission to tear down a 40-foot statue of brutal dictator and mass murderer Saddam Hussein. Aided by Sgt. David Sutherland, Cpl. Edward Chin placed the Stars and Stripes atop the statue. He then removed it and covered Saddam's face with the red, black and white flag of the Iraqi people. The message was clear: America had brought freedom to the people of Iraq.
And to the Republic
Gregory Johnson, a radical activist, was jubilant. After burning the U.S. flag in protest at the 1984 Republican National Convention in Texas, and being sentenced to one year in prison and a $2,000 fine for "desecration of a venerated object," Johnson had appealed his case to the Supreme Court, claiming his freedom of speech had been violated. The Court found in his favor. Ever since, millions of outraged Americans have been pushing for an amendment protecting the flag.
For which it stands
Amid the violence and horror of battle, six Marines stood atop Mount Suribachi, grabbed a Japanese water pipe and attached Old Glory. Then, they raised the flag atop Iwo Jima. Sgt. Mike Strank, a Czech immigrant and the leader of the group, told his men that the flag had to fly over Iwo Jima so "every Marine on this cruddy island can see it." Strank and two of the Marines who helped raise the flag were killed on Iwo Jima.
It was a complete surprise. It had been such a quiet Sunday morning, with half of the Naval vessels off in the Pacific. Then, suddenly, at 7:55 a.m., Japanese aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor. And a nation that was torn between isolationists and internationalists found unity and a strength it had never before known.