Bernard Gilliland speech
Given at Hunterstown
November 11, 2008
"It is an honor to be here today and to be a part of a program designed to pay tribute to our
nations veterans and to dedicate this staff that will be used for generations to fly our nation’s flag.
We are especially proud to honor those veterans who are from here in Adams County. Many of those
veterans were there in the very beginning, during the American Rebolutionary War, and are buried right here in Hunterstown.
At the Great Conewago church cemetery, just a stones throw from here, are the remains of over 38 Revolutionary War soldiers
who pledged their fortunes, their honor and their lives to the cause of freedom and to what would become the United States
The cemetery is especially meaningful to me because many of my family
members are buried there, including my Gr/Gr Gr Gr Grandfather, William Gilliland, who was a Lt. Col. in the Pa. Militia during
the Rev. War and Maj. Gen. during the war of 1812. He was also the very first postmaster in Adams Co, the first Associate
Judge and a State Senator during the very early years of our country.
character, values and sense of patriotism that was born and bred into the early pioneers did not end here in Adams County.
Many of these pioneers moved on to new frontiers, taking their values and love of country with them.
One of those was the Gr.Gr. Grandson of Maj. Gen. William Gilliland, his name was George Harold Gilliland.
He was a veteran of WW1. He was a chaplain with the American Legion and in the 1950’s thought it would be a good idea
to add the words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance.
Pledge was written by Francis Bellamy way back in 1892. There were many programs for school
children that year because it was the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the new world. Bellamy wrote the Pledge
while he was editor of The Youths Companion, a publication that was widely distributed to the nation’s schools
throughout the country.
There were several changes made along the way to today’s
Pledge. For example, in 1923 "my flag" was replaced with "The flag of the United States".
In 1942, right in the middle of WWII, the Pledge received official recognition by Congress and the
Pledge was formally included into the U. S. Flag Code. Congress also established the current practice of rendering
the pledge with the –right hand over the heart.
In 1954, George Harold Gilliland,
a WWI veteran, was very active in the ‘back to God’ movement while a Chaplain with the American Legion. In that
year he put forth a resolution to add the words ‘under God’ to the Pledge. The resolution went on to be passed
at the National Convention and was then dispatched to a coalition of American Legion members who had been elected to Congress.
The bill to add the words "under God" was passed unanimously by both Houses of Congress
and President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the revised Pledge of Allegiance into law, taking effect on Flag Day, 1954.
Today, the wording of the Pledge of Allegiance, as set forth in The US flag Code, includes
the words ‘under God’ as suggested by a descendant of a Hunterstown Veteran.
today, there are several well-funded organizations who are attempting to remove those words from the Pledge. Two years ago,
at the urging of the National Headquarters, I joined the American Legion and initiated a resolution to keep the
words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Along the way, I discovered
that every State in the Union recognizes God in their State Constitution and I campaigned to get an American Legion resolution
from all 50 states in support of keeping the words ‘under God’ in the Pledge. The result was that twenty-six states
responded with resolutions and that became a record number of state resolutions in the one hundred year history of the American
Legion. Keeping the words in the pledge is now the official stance of the Legion.
Ironically, this story has come full circle. In 1953 George Harold Gilliland originally conceived of the idea of
adding the words "under God" to the pledge of allegiance. 1953 was also the 90th anniversary of the Gettysburg
Address. Abraham Lincoln was from Illinois and Illinois was the birthplace of George Harold Gilliland. Lincoln state in part
of his Gettysburg Address "…that we highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that his
nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom…".
It is possible that that phrase, as part of an anniversary celebration, helped influence Geo. Harold Gilliland 90 years later
to submit a resolution to add the words "under God" to the pledge of Allegiance.
Now, here we are coming full circle again, - from a Revolutionary War and War of 1812 soldier, William Gilliland,
buried just a short distance away, to one of his descendants, a WWI veteran veteran adding the words ‘Under God’
to the pledge of allegiance to the flag, possibly influenced by a President who made those very words immortal here in Adams
County – to a WWII veteran, whose gravesite I just visited yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery, my father, James
Elmo Gilliland, and to another descendant, a Viet Nam Era Veteran, who is back in Hunterstown, to help dedicate a staff to
hold our nations flag, on November 11, honoring our nations veterans.
so much for allowing me to be here and to be a part of this special day.