Happy 291st birthday, Baltimore! Home of the Inner Harbor, Johns Hopkins Hospital and University, MLB Orioles, and NFL Ravens, it is the most populace city in Maryland, as well as the 30th most populace city in the nation. It is geographically located approximately forty miles northeast of Washington D.C.

Baltimore has been dubbed the “city of neighborhoods,” having hundreds of identified districts. It has given residence to many notable personalities, including Edgar Allen Poe, Tom Clancy, Babe Ruth, Michael Phelps, Billie Holiday, Ben Carson — and Francis Scott Key.

Fort McHenry is among the favorite tourist attractions in Baltimore. According to Wikipedia, “Defense of Fort M’Henry” is a poem written on September 14, 1814, by 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships of the Royal Navy in Baltimore Harbor during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the large U.S. flag, with 15 stars and 15 stripes, known as the Star-Spangled Banner, flying triumphantly above the fort during the U.S. victory.

Key was a prisoner aboard a British ship as he watched the torrential attack and the soldiers valiant efforts to keep the flag raised throughout the fight. One can only imagine the emotions welling up in Key’s heart, thankful for the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Those who understand and embrace the history of the United States of America possess a reverence for the flag that represents this country. It is not the piece of cloth, but its symbolism that brings a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye. And to disrespect that symbol in any fashion is a slap to the face of every American citizen, every soldier who has fought for our liberty, and every president who has served as commander in chief of this great nation.

If you need to refresh your American spirit, a 10-minute video will be worth your time, and can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaxGNQE5ZLA. May it ever be our prayer: God, bless the USA.

Steven Callis is the minister at First Church of the Nazarene in Douglasville.