Yesterday at church, I was in charge of commemorating Veteran’s Day. We did the usual things by including patriotic songs, passing out poppies and recognizing our veterans who were present and those who were unable to be with us. We added a few educational components, however, because it was obvious to me that with each passing year and each generation we are forgetting more and more about our heritage. We’re also less willing to teach about it in our history classes in school.
It was shocking to me that there were young people in our congregation who had never heard of Flanders Field from WWI or the famous poem commemorating it. They were unaware of where and how the tradition of the poppies on Veterans Day came about. Although they’d heard of Veterans Day, few remembered that it was originally called Armistice Day and that it commemorating the signing of the armistice with Germany. That armistice was signed during the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. I thought it was fitting that as church began yesterday morning at 11 a.m. on 11/11 that we be reminded of that.
There was also another item I came across while studying for Veterans Day. It was interesting and I wanted to pass it along.
Most of us are somewhat familiar with the currency we carry in our pockets. However, I don’t think we give much thought to the symbolism that exists in a dollar bill and why it is a strong reminder of the freedoms we enjoy and why we fight to protect them.
The one-dollar bill first came off the presses in 1957 in its present design. This so-called paper money is in fact a cotton and linen blend, with red and blue minute silk fibers running through it. It is actually material. We’ve all washed it without it falling apart. A special blend of ink is used; the contents we will never know. It is overprinted with symbols and then it is starched to make it water resistant and pressed to give it that nice crisp look.
If you look on the front of the bill, you will see the United States Treasury Seal. On the top you will see the scales for the balance — a balanced budget. In the center you have a carpenter’s T-square, a tool used for an even cut. Underneath is the Key to the United States Treasury.
If you turn the bill over, you will see two circles. Both circles, together, comprise the Great Seal of the United States. The First Continental Congress requested that Benjamin Franklin and a group of men come up with a Seal. It took them four years to accomplish this task and another two years to get it approved.
If you look at the left hand circle, you will see a Pyramid. Notice the face is lighted and the western side is dark. This country was just beginning. We had not begun to explore the West or decided what we could do for Western Civilization. The Pyramid is uncapped, again signifying that we were not even close to being finished. Inside the capstone you have the all-seeing eye, and ancient symbol for divinity. It was Franklin’s belief that one man couldn’t do it alone, but a group of men, with the help of God, could do anything. “IN GOD WE TRUST” is on this currency. The Latin above the pyramid, ANNUIT COEPTIS, means “God has favored our undertaking. “The Latin below the pyramid, NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM, means “a new order has begun.”
At the base of the pyramid is the Roman Numeral for 1776. If you look at the circle on the right, and check it carefully, you will learn that it is on every National Cemetery in the United States. It is also on the Parade of Flags Walkway at the Bushnell, Florida National Cemetery and is the centerpiece of most heroes’ monuments. Slightly modified, it is the seal of the President of the United States and it is always visible whenever he speaks, yet no one knows what the symbols mean.
The Bald Eagle was selected as a symbol for victory for two reasons: first, he is not afraid of a storm; he is strong and he is smart enough to soar above it. Secondly, he wears no material crown. We had just broken from the King of England. Also, notice the shield is unsupported. This country can now stand on its own.
At the top of that shield you have a white bar signifying congress, a unifying factor. We were coming together as one nation. In the Eagle’s beak you will read, “E PLURIBUS UNUM”, meaning “one nation from many people.” Above the Eagle you have thirteen stars representing the thirteen original colonies, and any clouds of misunderstanding rolling away. Again, we were coming together as one.
Notice what the Eagle holds in his talons. He holds an olive branch and arrows. This country wants peace, but we will never be afraid to fight to preserve peace. The Eagle always wants to face the olive branch, but in time of war, his gaze turns toward the arrows.
They say that the number 13 is an unlucky number. This is almost a worldwide belief. You will usually never see a room numbered 13, or any hotels or motels with a 13th floor. But, think about this: 13 original colonies, 13 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 13 stripes on our flag, 13 steps on the Pyramid, 13 letters in the Latin above, 13 letters in “E PLURIBUS UNUM”, 13 stars above the Eagle, 13 plumes of feathers on each span of the Eagle’s wing, 13 bars on that shield, 13 leaves on the olive branch, 13 fruits, and if you look closely, 13 arrows. And for minorities: the 13th Amendment.
I’d hardly call that unlucky, would you?