Back to Nature (Published on - June 28, 2006)
The bald eagle – American symbol of bravery
This column is dedicated to all firefighters, EMS professionals, law enforcement professionals, SWAT team members and military personnel. We honor you. You are our natural born heroes.

Who are our heroes? What do we feel represents strength, dignity, bravery and power? Following America’s disastrous events such as 9/11, we have become bonded by our search for meaning, spirituality, loyalty and the resounding knowledge and recognition of who are our natural born heroes.

Because of its long life, great strength, bravery and majestic looks, the bald eagle was chosen June 20, 1782 as the symbol of the United States of American. Considered the most regal bird in the sky, “Eagle” refers to the largest diurnal birds of prey.

The Great Seal shows a widespread eagle, faced front, having on his breast a shield with 13 perpendicular red and white stripes, surmounted by a blue field with the same number of stars.

The 13 stars enclosed in the ring of light going out to a ring of clouds above the eagle represents the religious freedom sought by our nation’s founders.

In his left talon are a bundle of 13 arrows, representing war as an instrument of power. In his right talon the eagle holds an olive branch indicating this nation’s desire for peace, even during war, and held by the eagle in its bill is the scroll inscribed with the motto: “E Pluribus Unum” (Out of Many, One), attributed to Thomas Jefferson.

The eagle’s head represents the executive branch, the shield’s top indicates the legislative, and the nine tail feathers, the judiciary.

Edwin Way Teale aptly ascribed the bald eagle in his “Bird of Freedom,” in the Atlantic Monthly, 1957. He wrote:

“Above all other birds it is the soaring eagle, with its size and weight, that gives the most abiding impression of power and purpose in the air. It advances solidly like a great ship cleaving the swells and thrusting aside the smaller waves. It sails directly where lesser birds are rocked and tilted by the air currents.”

Unlike other eagles, the bald eagle is indigenous only to North America. In Latin the word for “eagle,” aquila, means dark color and the north wind. This became aigle in French from which we say, eagle.

The word “bald” does not mean that this bird has no feathers. Instead, it comes from the word piebald, an old word, which means “marked with white” and so we have bald eagle or white-headed, large, dark bird of prey.

In recent history the bald eagle was listed on the endangered species list but has bravely made an amazing recovery so as to be recently removed from this list. Even so, most of the bald eagle populations are found in Alaska, Canada, Washington, Oregon and Florida.

The adults have a white head and white tail, blackish-brown back and breast; large yellow bill and yellow feet. These majestic birds have long and broad wings that help them soar at grand heights using magnificent strength and power. Thus, our vision of the bald eagle is of a bird of great dignity, superb strength and bravery, keenness of sight and marvelous powers of flight.

This bird truly symbolizes the free spirit of all Americans from the first peoples to the Europeans that followed, as a nation of individuals who has suffered great consequences, bravely building the cornerstones of a country where today our children are born in freedom and independence.

Set aside a moment of remembrance and honor. Visit the Veteran’s War Memorial Park where you may tie a prayer tie upon the memorial tree or spend a moment of silence to embrace our brave ones and their families with thoughts of appreciation and strength.

War Veterans’ Memorial Park is at 9600 Bay Pines Blvd., St. Petersburg, FL 33708. Call 549-6165.

Karen can be reached at

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