We stand because those who fought and died for our freedom cannot stand anymore. We honor them by standing as Christ stood at the passing of Stephen in Acts 7:56. There is something special and honorable about the heroism of a person that agrees ahead of time to give their life for you–it’s unexplainable. The only correct response is standing. It’s not enough, but it’s the best tradition we have to show honor.

We place our hand on our heart to feel it beat. Reminding us that many stood and volunteered to give their last heart beat, their only precious life, to protect and defend our freedom. We cover our heart to remind us that the enemies of America will not stop until they extinguish the collective heartbeat of America – patriotism. However different we are, our enemies see us as the same heartbeat.

We cover our heart with our right hand because it is the traditional hand of covenant, oath and thanksgiving. Reminding us that the patriots who fought to protect our freedoms, started their journey by raising their right into the air and pledged their life in honor to protect America and its people. Our right hand, because when we see them again we will extend the right hand of thanksgiving, shake their hand and thank them for their service, whether it’s here on Earth or in heaven.

We sing the words, even if we cannot sing well, because our speech has creative power; it binds us to the past and protects our future freedom. Singing the anthem renews patriotism and deflates our differences. We are reminded that when a battle is lost or a country falls to an enemy, the first ceremony is removal of the losing flag and the hoisting of the enemy flag. The enemies’ removal of the flag is a universal sign of victory. The words of our anthem penetrate the heart of our enemy and remind them that we are a force that has been battle-tested and has persevered. After a vicious, all night battle, at the dawn’s first light, the flag was still there. That scene has been repeated over and over during America’s lifetime. Brave men and women of all races, creeds and colors putting it all on the line to win the battle and keep the colors flying.

While we don’t have an anthem for every heroic battle in our history, the “Star Spangled Banner” reminds us that every right, privilege and freedom we have today was secured and is being secured and will be secured in the future in a battle on a battlefield by a warrior that agreed ahead of time to give their life, if necessary. It is one of history’s great mysteries that an American citizen would give up their individual freedoms and their life to expand the freedoms of citizens they don’t know. Yet that mystery binds us all together.

The best tradition to bring unity in our great nation is to stand with right hand over your heart and sing the anthem that honors every race, creed and color or patriot that gave their life. These patriots are the reason we can answer the anthems great question with a resounding “YES!”

“Oh say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet (continue to) wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

Let us not be the last generation to answer the anthem’s great question with a “yes.”

Ryan Gatti is Louisiana State Senator for District 36. He can be reached at: gattir@legis.la.gov