Chief’s Corner: The meaning behind our national anthem

by Chief Master Sgt. Gregory N. Myers
Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe superintendent

What do you think of when you hear our U.S. national anthem? In the military, we have the privilege of hearing our anthem so often that I wonder if people forget the words and what they mean. I have even heard some people say we should change the words to something else more appropriate to the current spirit of our country and something the modern generation would understand better.

You may agree or disagree, but if anything, it does cause one to ponder more about the meaning of our anthem and what it means to us.

Is it possible our familiarity with the anthem has masked the spirit we should have when we hear it played?

I have taken the liberty of writing an alternate version with words that reflect the thoughts that go through my mind when I hear it play. This in no way takes away from the original words, but just clarifies for me — in modern terms — what the words mean to me today:

Say, can you see it? The flag. There — it is still there. I can just make it out by the first light of day. It looks like it has been through quite a battle, but it is so beautiful. We were all so proud of it, of each other, and what we stood for as the sun went down last night; it seemed to tie us all together — every person, every dream. Even as the battle raged all around us, its broad stripes and bright stars gallantly streamed in the wind, waving over the ramparts, and announcing our intention to stand strong against the enemy. When the sun went down, the battle intensified, and we fought on. If our courage wavered, if our resolve was tested in that dark place, we only had to wait for the red glare of a rocket or the light of a bomb bursting in the air. For in that moment, we could see that even in the grim darkness our flag was still there. If our flag was still there, that meant we were still there. And if we were still there, then all that we were fighting for still stood a chance to still be. A glance of the colors in the heat of battle gave us hope and the gritty resolve to do everything in our power to see that hope realized.

Say, does that flag, that beautiful star spangled banner, still wave over a land of free men and women? Is it still the beacon of life and liberty, the vigilant guardian over the home of a brave nation? Please tell me our dream still lives on.