If there’s a patriotic streak in any American’s body, it’s going to be shining brightly during the coming week as Independence Day activities are held throughout not only this area, but across the country.

The highlight of the celebration for most will come on Wednesday, July 4, a holiday that can be universally observed regardless of a citizen’s national origin or faith.

Americans have numerous symbols of their patriotism, and the Fourth of July specifically commemorates the signing of one of our nation’s two founding documents — the Declaration of Independence. The other document, the U.S. Constitution, has its own day each September, but the festivities surrounding its adoption are considerably less dramatic. However, if July 4 is celebrated as the birthday of our independence, Sept. 17 should be celebrated as the birthday of our government.

Still, we celebrate however and whenever is appropriate.

While our attention is focused on our nation and the freedoms we enjoy, it’s fitting that we also consider these other documents and remembrances. And of all the words that we might recite in tribute to our country and the freedoms its residents’ enjoy, the national anthem is probably the one that is used most often.

The Pledge of Allegiance is uttered at the beginning of some school days and club meetings. The preamble of the Constitution (“We the People…”) and the opening phrases of the Declaration of Independence (“When in the course of human events…” are memorized by civics students long enough to recite them for a grade. Few of us are able now to state much of the rest of those historic phrases by heart.

But in contrast, most of have little trouble saying the words of the national anthem (“Oh say, can you see…”). We do that at sporting events and concerts, at community programs and many other events. The tune is as familiar to us as any other we know.

However, we forget that those eight familiar lines of the “The Star-Spangled Banner” are just the start of a much longer patriotic poem written by Francis Scott Key. We do that work disservice by dropping them, and by not reflecting more often on the author’s complete line of thought. You know the tune, and you know its history. Now, pause and study the words in their full context.

Oh, say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,

O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?

And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,

Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,

As it fitfully blows, now conceals, now discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,

In full glory reflected now shines on the stream:

‘Tis the star-spangled banner! O long may it wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore

That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion

A home and a country should leave us no more?

Their blood has wiped out their foul footstep’s pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!

Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Gene Deason is managing editor of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Friday. He may be reached by e-mail at gene.deason@brownwoodbulletin.com.