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August 30, 2011 > O say can you see

O say can you see

O say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming,

When these words were first penned by Francis Scott Key, they were inspired by pride and patriotism as a new nation stood firm when threatened by a powerful foreign force during the War of 1812. Fort McHenry, guarding Baltimore harbor, was under bombardment but defiantly flew the stars and stripes. As the poem gained attention, printed and reprinted, it created a groundswell of emotion that transformed the flag into a symbol of the ideals, strength and resolve of the United States of America. Its four verses were fused with a popular English song of the times and became a focus for U.S. nationalism, recognized by the Navy in 1889 and the President in 1916, finally gaining official status through congressional action as the "National Anthem" in 1931.

Over time, the Star-Spangled Banner has been challenged many times and in many different ways, but still retains its status as "Old Glory," symbolic of national resolve. As a symbol of democracy and world power, the United States has been a refuge for those fleeing from tyranny and despotism. As such, it has become a target for those seeking defeat of free thought and action. One such action, the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, is instantly recognized by the numbers, "911" representing the date September 11, 2001. When this occurred, national and international response was immediate. Again, the Star-Spangled Banner became highly visible, not only throughout the United States, but around the world as horrified residents of most civilized countries responded to this terrible act. Most condemned the perpetrators and used the flag to symbolize their solidarity against those who trivialized the premeditated murder of innocent civilians.

In the aftermath of 911, a call to combat those organized to destroy freedom of thought and action, resulted in military action and a need by others to express gratitude, respect and resolve. A group of friends and neighbors discussed the situation; Hayward resident Air Force veteran Tom Ballard, took the lead and shouldered the cost of painting a giant U.S. flag on the hillside behind his house in October 2001. It remained as a visible reminder of his - and the world's - determination to remember those who perished September 11, 2001 and the families they left behind. The 6,500 square foot flag could be seen throughout the Bay Area and East Bay Regional Park officials, although not initially asked for permission, allowed it to remain until December.

The following years have been difficult for Ballard since his son who proudly served in Iraq was killed in action but his patriotism and love of country have never waivered. Ten years later, at a gathering of veterans on July 4th, the subject of recreating the massive flag once again surfaced. This time, instead of painting on the hillside, it was decided to create a more durable artifact. The 2011 version will be created from vinyl strips that require 8,000 square feet of vinyl, 1,000 grommets and 1,000 stakes. Its measurements will coincide exactly with the dimensions an official U.S. flag and those used for the first rendition... 123' by 65'.

Again, shouldering the financial burden, Tom has pledged to make this dream a reality although he wasn't sure where the $2,000 cost would come from. A few donations have come in, but not nearly enough to cover the expense. Shuffling his time between a full-time job at United Airlines and organizing this event, Tom is determined to move ahead no matter what. He has even sold a coin collection, initially saved for his son. In a shocking development, Tom recently learned that materials for the flag will more than double in cost to $5,000! Undaunted, he has pledged that with the help of family, many close friends and veteran's groups to finish this project.

Help to assemble, transport and install the flag is welcome. Financial contributions are also important to assure completion of the flag project. A fundraising car wash is scheduled for Sunday, September 4 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Sign Master parking lot at 20537 Mission Boulevard in Hayward. All donations will defray the cost of the flag.

For more information and inquires about how you can help, contact Tom at

Flag Project Car Wash
Sunday, Sept 4
10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Sign Master
20537 Mission Blvd., Hayward
(510) 258-0002

Flag Installation
Saturday, Sept 10
7 a.m.
Drive flag to MacDonald Way and carry it up the hill
Meet at 31385 Hugh Way, Hayward

Flag Removal
Monday, Sept 12
Contact Tom at for details

The Star-Spangled Banner

O say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O'er the ramparts we watch'd were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,
'Tis the star-spangled banner - O long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footstep's pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov'd home and the war's desolation!
Blest with vict'ry and peace may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto - "In God is our trust,"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

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