At last Sunday's game vs. the Denver Broncos, Ravens fans got a look at an historic artifact not typically found at sporting events.
With Veteran's Day nearing, the Ravens honored Military Appreciation Day on November 1, including a live feed from Afghanistan and a fly-over by Air Force A-10s at the conclusion of the Star Spangled Banner.
At halftime, Baltimore's Marching Ravens kicked off their performance with a traditional marching band arrangement of America (My Country 'Tis of Thee), followed by Armed Forces Salute. The members of the band shifted into formations spelling out ARMY, USMC, USCG, USAF and NAVY as they played each branch's theme, respectively.
To conclude the show, the band played Stars and Stripes Forever, John Philip Sousa's most iconic patriotic march, while the Marching Ravens flagline unfurled the Star Spangled Banner along the back half of the field.
The Star Spangled Banner, also known as the Garrison Flag, is a 30x42' nylon replica of the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the words to our National Anthem on the morning of September 14, 1814, after British soldiers attacked Baltimore in the Battle of 1812. The original wool version of the flag is currently displayed in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History.
According to Vince Vaise, Chief of Interpretation at the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, the Garrison flag is the second version of the U.S. flag, of 27 versions to date. It has 15 stars and 15 stripes, to symbolize the 15 states in the Union at the time of its design.
Marching Ravens president John Ziemann stressed how honored the band was to be allowed to use the Garrison flag during halftime. "We want to promote Baltimore as the Star Spangled city. We have used the flag in previous years, as both the Colts Band and Baltimore's Marching Ravens. It should give the people of Maryland great personal pride to see that flag."
"We generally don't loan it out much," said Vaise, "but it is certainly something that underscores the importance Baltimore as the home of the national anthem, so it's nice to have it at a Ravens game to inspire visitors to stay in town longer and visit Fort McHenry." The Garrison flag routinely flies over Fort McHenry in the summer months.
It's completely appropriate to use this flag at M&T Bank Stadium, says Vaise, given the similarities between the game of football and military battle. He notes that the football field is regularly referred to a "battlefield" and it's not unusual for players to compare themselves to men going into war with their fellow soldiers.
Vaise suggests that "the fans should all yell 'huzzah!' when the team scores a touchdown, just as U.S. soldiers yelled when the British retreated in the War of 1812."
2014 is the bicentennial of Key's writing of the Star Spangled Banner.