In 2013, is this still the land of the free? Yes. Americans have shown they still have the conviction and the will to stand up to those who would take away or restrict our liberty.
Is it still the home of the brave?
Around the world, servicemen and women daily defend our liberty and are willing to sacrifice their own lives to protect it.
Again, here at home, just this week, 19 brave members of an elite firefighting crew, the Granite Mountain Hotshots, were killed by a wildfire in Arizona that still burns.
They were there in hopes of stopping the fire and protecting their neighbors’ homes by clearing brush and cutting down trees that might feed the lightning-sparked blaze.
Most of the 19 men were only in their 20s — the job is so physically demanding, they almost had to be. Many left behind wives and young children.
They knew the risks they ran. More than 200 firefighters have been killed in wildfires since the “Big Burn” inferno of 1910 killed 78 in Idaho and Montana, according to a list compiled by the Wall Street Journal.
The Hotshots trained intensely to deal with those risks, even carrying heat-resistant personal shelters in the 50 pounds of gear on their backs.
In the end, the fire turned on them and they were swiftly overwhelmed as they desperately deployed those shelters.
Today, flags fly at half staff in their honor.
But as the concluding question of the anthem suggests, there is no guantee that the flag will always fly over the kind of nation bequeathed to us by the founders unless we are willing to stand up for the cause of freedom.
If we do, the question will still be there to challenge our children and grandchildren. Will they be able to say the flag still waves over the land of the free and brave?