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Sgt. Daniel Zavaleta peers out onto the water where Francis Scott Key saw the American flag waving while in British captivity--the place where the iconic words within the Star Spangled Banner were first written.

Photo by Jeremy Beale

Marines travel to Fort McHenry, get inspired by The Star Spangled Banner

8 Jun 2017 | Jeremy Beale/Staff Writer Marine Corps Base Quantico

More than 20 Quantico Marines learned about the significance of our nation’s flag and its symbolism during the War of 1812 by traveling to Fort McHenry National Park recently, the location of the famous naval battle that took place there during the War of 1812. The training was part of Headquarters and Service Battalion’s (H&S Bn) Revolutionary War Professional Military Education (PME) Series.

Each Marine walked the damp battle¬grounds of Fort McHenry where they were asked if they would have gone to war with a British enemy, which out-manned them five-to-one on that rainy day on Sept. 13, 1814.

Setting the scene, Maj. Christopher Smith, S-3 officer- in- charge, H&S Bn aboard Quantico and planner of the PME, told the Marines that the British had just concluded a battle with Napoleon Bonaparte, thus leaving them in debt and in search of funds and resources. Nonethe¬less, they sought out an already struggling American nation—an American nation which had cut funds and manpower from their militia to subsidize the cost of their struggling economic status.

“Some refer to the War of 1812 as the second Revolutionary War,” Smith said.

According to Smith those at Fort McHenry fought because they didn’t have a choice.

As the British attacked the nation in nearly full force, the enemy conquered the city of Washington, D.C., burning the White House to the ground. It wasn’t long after this that the British set their sights on Baltimore.

The only thing that stood between the British and Baltimore at the time was Fort McHenry.

“Baltimore at the time was one of the most prosperous, populated cities in the nation and had the American militia not defended the channel, we’d be looking at a very different America today,” Park Ranger Tyler Mink said.

As a British enemy looked upon the shores of Fort McHenry in dawn’s early light, an American flag (The Star Span¬gled Banner as it was to become known as) was easily seen. This was the intent of George Armistead, the commander of Fort McHenry, who had previous to the battle declared that “a flag so large that the British would have no difficulty see¬ing it from a distance,” be made. And, it waved proudly throughout the entire battle, showing that an American nation is not easily defeated.

Today, as a replica of The Star Spangled Banner flag continues to wave over Fort McHenry, American citizens can look upon it with full hearts and proud eyes as they imagine the writing of the American national anthem “The Star Spangled Ban¬ner” by Francis Scott Key, which he was inspired to write as he watched the battle rage in the distance with the huge flag in clear sight:

“Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming.
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gal¬lantly streaming.
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs burst¬ing in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”

As the Marine visitors aboard Fort McHenry stood at attention and hoisted an American Flag as we know it today below that of the 20-by-36 foot, 15 stars and 15 stripes Great Garrison Flag (as The Star Spangled Banner was known as in 1814) which flies above the fort, visitors of the park watched as a moment was recre¬ated filling hearts with pride once more.

“The raising of the flag was extremely emotional and uplifting for me,” Lance Cpl. Amanda Taylor said. “The flag and The Star Spangled Banner are symbols of freedom and bravery, the motivation to press on in the face of adversity. I couldn’t think of a more powerful opportunity to show the spirit of the Corps than helping raise and fold our nation’s symbol for an entire city to see.”

According to Mink, the feeling Taylor showed represents the power behind the United States flag.

“The flag represents so many things for so many different people,” Mink said. “It is a symbol of what our nation stands for—free¬dom for all.”

Professional Military Education (PME) provides a continuum of education to improve leadership, sharpen critical thinking skills, and deepen Marines’ understanding of warfighting concepts in distributed and joint environments. The goal is to create ethical, professional lead¬ers who make sound decisions in complex operational situations.

Marine Corps Base Quantico