‘Key’ to Independence Day

by Staff Sgt. Brittany Simpson
86th Dental Squadron

On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, declaring the British colonies of North America independent from Great Britain.

As Independence Day approaches, our country celebrates its freedom to self-govern, and we recognize we were all created equal. Americans around the world will gather in smoke-filled backyards barbecuing with friends and family and displaying American flags across freshly mowed lawns.

When thinking about our nation’s independence, there are many patriotic melodies that come to mind and remind us of our American heritage. One of our most beloved patriotic songs is our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Written by Francis Scott Key 36 years after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, “The Star-Spangled Banner” is often associated with the Fourth of July and is a cherished symbol of liberty.


During the War of 1812, British naval warships set their sights on Baltimore, entered Chesapeake Bay and prepared to force the surrender of Maj. George Armistead, the commander of Fort McHenry.

Before the assault began, Key met with the British in an attempt to free a civilian doctor held prisoner. The British fleet agreed to release the physician, but only after the upcoming battle against Fort McHenry had concluded. Armed guards escorted Key back to his sailing vessel where he witnessed the relentless bombardment of Fort McHenry from the British fleet.

Earlier that year, Armistead had commissioned flag-maker Mary Pickergill to construct two flags to be flown on Fort McHenry, the defender of the Baltimore Harbor. One flag was much larger than the other. In fact, the larger flag’s original size was 30 feet high, by 42 feet wide. Each of the 15 stars and stripes had a diameter of two feet. The banner’s impressive scale sent a clear message to any army that tried to attack or threaten the colonists of star-shaped Fort McHenry.

As Key helplessly watched the 25-hour bombardment on Fort McHenry, the British navy rained down thousands of rounds on the fort. As he witnessed the rocket’s red glare and bombs bursting in air, Key knew if he saw the American flag flying over the fort at daybreak, then it was proof that Armistead did not surrender his fort to the British. When he saw through the dawn’s early light that the striking star-spangled banner was still proudly flying over Fort McHenry, he knew Baltimore was safe. It was this remarkable display of the American spirit of bravery and freedom that inspired him to write the poem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Although Thomas Jefferson knew the British army would send all their might and wrath after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a near death sentence, he never imagined how triumphant the brave continental defenders would be against the British army. The “Key” to independence can be heard within the inspired and patriotic language of our national anthem.
Have a happy and safe Fourth of July from the entire staff of the Ramstein Dental Clinic.

“So long as patriotism dwells among us, so long will this song be the theme of our nation.” — The Baltimore American, 1843