O say can you see?
You bet. Now more than ever before.
Two hundred years and a handful of weeks after poet Francis Scott Key wrote about a battle-weary 15-star banner flying over Fort McHenry in Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812, a child of that flag was raised in Tacoma.
A hundred invited guests watched and saluted Saturday as the largest American flag north of Sacramento and west of Wisconsin was raised over the Center Street headquarters of Tacoma Screw.
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“It’s going to be a constant reminder to the community we live in of all who sacrificed to make it possible to fly this magnificent flag,” said retired U.S. Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. George Hight, before a brief dedication ceremony began.
“To a Marine,” he said, “the flag says, ‘This is ours, we claim it, we’ll defend it and we’ll hold it at all costs.’ ”
At 80 by 40 feet, the flag is as large as the footprint of a good-sized house. At 180 feet in height, the top of the metal flagpole towers 90 feet above an overpass junction of state Route 16.
And the pole sits on a concrete base 21 feet below the ground.
“As we look forward to our 70th year, we asked, ‘What would be a fitting tribute?’ ” said Tacoma Screw marketing manager Michael Howard.”
The tribute: “To give back to the community,” he said. “To express gratitude for the past, to express passion for the present and hope for the future.”
“I ask that each of you look into your own hearts, discuss with your friends, relatives, civilian or military: ‘What does service to our country and what does the flag, our flag, mean to you?’ ” asked AMVETS Department of Washington Commander Charles Wharton.
An 18-member color guard from Pacific Lutheran University carried the 150-pound flag as it was unfolded, tethered, then lifted by an electric hoist.
Patches of bare sky appeared as the clouds above broke and the afternoon rain stopped falling.
First, the stars were revealed against a field of blue, then the stripes — seven red, six white.
Slowly the flag rose and suddenly a breeze awoke. Men and women in uniform saluted.
Some tears fell and the crowd applauded as broad riffles caught the bright nylon, as Old Glory began to wave in earnest.
“It’s right down into the depths of my soul,” said Wharton. “It’s not the cloth; it’s what’s behind it. This is going to be a new Tacoma landmark.”
Howard was reluctant to discuss the cost of the project, but would say Tacoma Screw has spent “six figures” from beginning to end.
“This isn’t about Tacoma Screw,” he said.
“One word,” he said. “Gratitude.”