The Birthplace of America’s National Anthem

“O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave"

Francis Scott Key

State 39: Maryland - May 8, 2018


We woke up at a Walmart in Bowie well rested, and ready for a brand new day. Yesterday, we visited the National Museum of Health and Medicine, and saw the actual bullet which killed Abraham Lincoln. We could not wait to see what adventures lie ahead! The first task of the day was to drive 27 miles Northeast to Baltimore, to visit the National Park depicted on the reverse of the Maryland Quarter; Fort McHenry National Monument. Please see the pictures below including me singing the National Anthem.

Named after James McHenry signer of the US Constitution, Fort McHenry was built in 1800 in the shape of a pentagon, and surrounded by a moat to protect the Port of Baltimore from enemy attacks. Anticipating a British attack on Fort McHenry during the war of 1812, Commanding Officer Major George Armistead placed an order with prominent Baltimorean flagmaker; Mary Pickersgill for two large flags for a cost of $405.90 today's equivalent to $5,147!!! Each flag consisted of 15 stripes and 15 stars. The first was a more durable Storm Flag measuring 17 by 25 feet flown during inclement weather, at night and during battle. The second flag ordered was the Great Garrison Flag measuring 30 by 42 feet, and was flown during calm weather, peace time and during daylight hours. Armistead’s reason for the supersized flag was, “so the British would have no difficulty seeing it from a distance" At the time, the Great Garrison Flag would be the largest battle flag ever flown!

Meanwhile, a prominent Washington, D.C. Attorney named Frances Scott Key came to Baltimore to negotiate the release of a civilian American prisoner, and was invited aboard the Royal Navy Flagship HMS Tonnant in Chesapeake Bay to discuss the terms. While aboard the ship, Key became aware of the British's intent to attack Baltimore. Ironically, Key who had come to negotiate the release of a prisoner found himself detained aboard the enemy ship until the upcoming battle was over.

On September 13, 1814 at 6:00am, 5,000 British soldiers aboard a fleet of 19 ships in Chesapeake Bay opened fire on Fort McHenry! The British ships were unable to access Baltimore Harbor due to the cannon fire from the fort! Since the British artillery had further range than the fort’s cannon, the British fleet stayed out of the range of the American's guns, and continuously bombarded Fort McHenry with rockets and mortars for the next 25 hours! During the ensuing battle, one of the British morters hit the forts munition storage, but fortunately for the Americans the bomb did not detonate! Poor accuracy of the cannon fire of both sides resulted in minimal damage and loss of life.

Aboard the British flagship HMS Tonnant, Key helplessly watched the battle through a telescope. On September 15, 1814 at 7:00am, the British bombardment ceased. Looking through his telescope from aboard the enemy ship, Key saw the Storm Flag lowered from Fort McHenry, and anxiously awaited to see if the British flag would be raised in its place. Soon thereafter, Key saw the Great Garrison Flag raised over Fort McHenry, and knew the American's had emerged victorious! The British retreated from Chesapeake Bay after depleting their ammunition. Although out manned, out gunned, and facing the worlds strongest Navy of the day, the brave Americans in Fort McHenry successfully repelled the British attack. The Battle of Baltimore was over!

After being released, Key was so inspired by the sight of the Great Garrison Flag flying after the battle, he penned a poem entitled,“Defense of Fort McHenry”, which was published in the Newspaper a week later. The poem proved so popular, Key took it to a music publisher, who adapted the poem to the tune of a popular British song entitled, “To Anacreon in Heaven”. Thus the “Star Spangled Banner” was born! Although quite challenging to sing, the “Star Spangled Banner” became the nation's most popular patriotic song by the time of the American Civil War. After being approved by Congress in 1931, President Herbert Hoover signed the bill into law establishing the "Star Spangled Banner" as America’s official National Anthem.

The Great Garrison Flag which flew over Fort McHenry on September 15, 1812 has since come to be known as the Star Spangled Banner, and remained in the possession of the descendants of George Armistead. Over the years, the Armistead family occasionally cut off pieces of the flag, and gave them away as gifts including one of the 15 stars. In 1912, Armistead’s Grandson Eben Appleton gifted the remnants of the Star Spangled Banner to the Smithsonian institute. Due to butchery and UV damage, a major restoration began in May 1999, and was completed in 2008 at a total cost of $21 million! Today, America’s most famous flag is on permanent display in the National Museum of American History in Washington D.C.

Fort McHenry continued to be used by the US military throughout WW1, and WW2, until advances in military warfare made coastal fortifications obsolete. In 1939, Fort McHenry was designated a National Monument, and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. When a new state is admitted into the union, tradition calls for the flag with its newly added star to first fly over Fort McHenry! Authorized by Presidential proclamation, Fort McHenry is one of only eight places the American flag flies 24 hours a day 365 days a year! At night, the flag is illuminated by spotlights powered by solar panels on the fort's roof. Each day, the storm flag is raised over Fort McHenry at 5:00 pm, and is replaced by the Great Garrison Flag at 10:00 am.

As fate would have it, the Cross Country Couple arrived just in time for the Garrison Flag to be raised! It takes a minimum of two dozen people to raise the super-sized flag. A class of 20 nursing students, a dozen Korean War Veterans, a small group of school age children from summer camp and the Cross Country Couple, all helped raise the flag while a national park Ranger played Yankee Doodle on the fife! Measuring 30 x 42 feet, the Garrison Flag by design is obnoxiously oversized, but seeing it in flight was breathtakingly beautiful! As a nurse, a veteran, a child at heart, and as an American, raising the flag over the fort which inspired the authoring of our National Anthem was one of the most memorable moments of my cross country journey! You can watch the videos by clicking here and here. Witnessing the Garrison Flag being raised over Fort McHenry is something every American should witness once in their lives! Please see the pictures below!

After the flag raising ceremony, one of the Park Rangers took us all up to the wall of the fort over looking the Chesapeake Bay. Two miles away stood a bridge appropriately named the Francis Scott Key Bridge marking the point where Key saw the Garrison Flag fly while detained aboard the British ship. We spent the next few hours exploring the historic buildings within the fort. Please see the pictures below.

Just in case you may be unaware, it is currently National Nurses Week, and what better opportunity to take a moment to highlight why Nurses are awesome people! Only someone who is a Nurse, or has one in their family will understand and appreciate the following. For example, Nurses make horrible dinner guests! If you ask a nurse about their day over dinner, be prepared to hear stories about phlegm, blood, urine, diarrhea, projectile vomiting, intestinal gases, oozing infectious wounds, and other body fluids I promise you never even knew existed described in graphic detail before the appetizers arrive! Nurses experience such things daily, and are perfectly comfortable openly sharing such stories. Now, if you happen to be in the presence of two nurses over dinner, then you are really in trouble! Each Nurse will attempt to out do each other with escalating grotesque stories, while the non nurses present gag, turn green, cover their ears in horror, and scream, “Please stop! I can’t take it anymore!”.

While we are on the topic of decency, Nurses are used to seeing people naked for physical examination, surgical procedures, dressing changes, bathing and toileting. Nurses have seen nude bodies of all ages, races, and genders in every imaginable shape and size. We have seen mastectomy scars, Cesarean scars, amputations, colostomies, and the most interesting tattoos in the most peculiar of places. Nurses understand more than most that nudity and sexuality are two entirely different concepts, and we typically have less issues with body image than others.

As a male Nurse, I know more about menstruation, pregnancy, lactation, STD’s, and female health than most woman! I have no hesitancy openly discussing the aforementioned, because teaching is a big component of Nursing. For example, “Did you know the demographic at highest risk for contracting an STD is the elderly?” Needless to say, I have embarrassed the hell out of my wife at more family gatherings than I can recall!

Nurses also use the correct anatomical terms for body parts and injuries. A Nurse will tell their child they have penis or vagina, and not a “pee pee”, or a “hoo haa”. The average injured person will arrive at the ER say, “I fell down the stairs and broke my leg”, However the injured Nurse who arrives at the ER will report, “I have a compound complex fracture to my left femur secondary to an MVA, I am alert and orientated x3, non weight bearing, my pain is a constant sharp 8/10, I have a positive pulse distal to the effected extremity”. Hell, we may even start our own IV while enroute to the ER!

If Nurses possessed a single superpower, it would be a super immune system! We are exposed daily to some of the most infectious diseases known to mankind, and feel free to Google C. Diff, MRSA and VRE if you dare. After a few years of working in healthcare, the Nurse appears to build up a natural resistance to most contagious diseases. If scientists wish to find cures for illnesses plaguing humanity, they need look no further than a sample of blood from a Nurse who worked in the hospital for the past 30 years! In my seven years of practicing Nursing, I have caught a cold once during my first year, and have washed my hands so much I barely have any skin left! Unfortunately, the Nurses family does not benefit from our superhero immune system. After completing a shift, my shoes stay outside, by scrubs go in a sealed garbage bag until laundry day, and the first thing I do when I get home is take a long hot shower. If you like to greet your loved one at the door with a hug and kiss when they come home from work, you do so at your own risk if they are a Nurse!

Since Nurses work around the clock and are frequently called in, we miss our daughter's dance recitals, and our son's little league baseball games, not to mention birthdays, anniversaries and at least two out of three major holidays. Whether it is a beautiful Summer day or the blizzard of the century, Nurses are “essential personnel”, and are expected to report to work regardless. The moment a Nurse clocks in, we are instantly responsible for the health, entertainment, safety, emotional, physical and spiritual well being of anywhere from 25-45 people! When a Nurse arrives on the unit, they never know what they are about to encounter. However, if no one is present at the Nurse’s station at change of shift, it is a pretty good indication the next 8-16 hours of your life are going to be hell! Nurses are always the first ones who arrive at work, and the last ones to leave! Since our patient's needs always take precedence over our own, breaks are a luxury, and if holding your bladder was a Olympic sport, the gold metal winner would undoubtedly be a Nurse! Ahh; the joys of Nursing!

If you are looking for a respectable job, with good pay and job security, nursing certainly fits the bill, but in actually the profession offers infinitely more. Nurses celebrate when your baby is born, and provide comfort when your loved one dies. Nurses care for children with terminal illnesses, and sing Happy Birthday solo to an Alzheimer's patient on their 100th Birthday! Nurses provide our patients with an interpretation of the doctor’s diagnosis, and we care for those our society cares less about. Nurses see suffering so great we are led to question the existence of God, and we also witness the most unexplainable miracles confirming His presence. Nurses are tough enough to tolerate anything, and soft enough to understand everyone. Nursing is not a just a job: it is an art, a privilege and a calling!

Nursing is more than the initials after your name or the years of experience under your belt. Nurses are educators, delegators, advocates, caregivers, healers, coordinators, counselors, confidants, interpreters, investigators, where the buck stops, and the front line of healthcare! When you are a Nurse, everyday is as heartbreaking as it is inspirational, as exhausting as it is exhilarating, and as ugly as it is beautiful. I am a Nurse because no other job offers such an experience, and I cannot imagine doing anything else! From one nurse to another, I would like to thank each of you for all you do, and I would like to also thank your families for all they tolerate. Yes, Nurses are a rare and special breed indeed, but the world is a better place because of us! Happy Nurse’s Week Everyone!!! Since we give so much of ourselves to others, make a point to do something extra special for yourself this week! YOU DESERVE IT!!!

After departing Fort McHenry National Monument, we drove across town where we found a Walmart to spend the night.