The Pledge of Allegiance

Posted: Jul 02, 2003 12:00 AM

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.

One nation

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.

Under God

In 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt wanted the motto "In God We Trust" removed from the new $20 gold coin. Roosevelt said that it was "irreverence which comes dangerously close to sacrilege" to use the Lord's name on coins that bought "worldly" goods and services. The public outcry was enormous. Within the next year, Congress passed a law requiring "In God We Trust" printed on all United States coinage immediately.


On March 4, 1865, on a wet, muddy day, Abraham Lincoln strode to the podium. As he began to speak to his battered nation, sunlight burst through the clouds, covering Pennsylvania Avenue in a shower of golden rays. "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds ... " Less than a year later, Abraham Lincoln would be slain.

With liberty

When readers picked up the National Era weekly in 1851 and 1852, how many knew that they would read bits and pieces of the most influential American novel of the 19th century? Penned by the daughter of a Congregational minister, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" spurred the abolitionist movement to new heights. With its tale of brutal slavery and the freedom of the human spirit, Harriet Beecher Stowe's book played an integral part in the development of the Civil War.

And justice

According to popular folk tale, American justice was born in 1839. Abner Doubleday, then 20 years old, supposedly designed the first baseball diamond while encamped at Cooperstown, N.Y. The folk tale might have been faulty, but the game of baseball proved to be America's pastime, embodying American competitive spirit.

For all.

On July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the two giants responsible for it drew their last breaths. Thomas Jefferson expressed his life's mission thus: "I shall not die without a hope that life and liberty are on steady advance. The flames kindled on July 4, 1776, have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism." John Adams was more succinct. "Independence forever!"